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Are Democrats Finally Giving Up on Bart Stupak?

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As is now well known, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) is threatening to kill health care reform, pulling 12 "yes" votes into the "no" column, unless strict language can be approved preventing indirect, circuitous funding of abortion. That Stupak appears to be wrong on the merits isn't stopping him from becoming a major obstacle to success.

Democratic leaders have been working with the Michigan lawmaker in the hopes of finding a solution, and as of earlier this week, Stupak himself conceded that he's " more optimistic" about a resolution to the impasse.

But as of late yesterday, the AP reported that House leaders are prepared to give up on Stupak and find the votes elsewhere.

House Democratic leaders are giving up on seeking compromise with anti-abortion foes in their ranks and will try to pass health care legislation without those votes.

The anti-abortion Democrats' objections to the bill has become the principal hangup in efforts to resolve differences within the party and achieve the biggest change in health care in generations.

Congressional leaders are hoping they can find enough support from other wavering Democrats to pass legislation that only cleared the House by five votes in an earlier version.

The NYT reported that Democratic leaders appear " willing to bypass" Stupak. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who questioned whether he actually has 12 votes in his pocket, added, "There is no way in this legislation to satisfy Bart's demands."

To be sure, the leadership hasn't shown all of its cards here, and it's possible these leaks to the media are intended to help give Pelosi & Co. some added leverage. It's also possible that the leadership has been leaning on some of Stupak's allies, and now believes he doesn't have as many votes as he thinks he does. Maybe the Speaker has flipped a few Blue Dogs that we're not aware of, and no longer cares if Stupak walks away.

Also note, it doesn't appear that top Democrats have formally given up on resolving matters with Stupak. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), arguably Congress' best negotiator, said as recently as yesterday that he intends to " keep talking" to Stupak "until we see where we end up." It suggests the take-it-or-leave-it moment has not yet arrived.

But patience with Stupak's intransigence appears to be wearing thin. There's been talk of reasonable solutions -- including applying the Hyde language to the new health exchanges to an appropriations bill over the summer -- but it's apparently up to Stupak now as to whether he wants a deal or wants to help Republicans kill the bill.