Video: Rep. Stupak: We Had an Agreement Until 'the Extremes Took Over'

News & Politics

After threatening to scuttle the House version of health-care reform legislation last week by refusing to accept a compromise on anti-abortion language the bill, Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., is positioning himself to be the savior of health-care reform as the Senate takes up its bill -- even agreeing to support language that would require insurance companies not to drop abortion coverage from policies paid for with private dollars.

Appearing on MSNBC's Hardball last night, Stupak claimed to have had an agreement with House leaders, on the night before the Saturday vote, "to put part of my amendment" into bill. Then, he said, "the extremes took over," forcing the need for his amendment, which would make it virtually impossible for insurance companies to offer, through a federally administered insurance exchange, health insurance policies that provide abortion coverage to anybody receiving a subsidy -- even if the purchaser pays for the policy that part of the coverage entirely out of her own pocket.

Who might these "extremes" be, Congressman Stupak? The Catholic bishops, per chance?

David Rogers of Politico reported yesterday that ahead of the vote, Speaker Nancy Pelosi received a call from Rome; on the line was Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the retired former archbishop of Washington, D.C., whom Pelosi, a Roman Catholic herself, knows. Neither will discuss the substance of the call. But we do know that anti-choice Democrats refused to sign off on the compromise because representatives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops would not grant their blessing on the compromise.

(Of course, without naming them, it's more likely that Stupak is speaking of pro-choice members.)

Nontheless, Stupak, in his interview last night with Hardball host Chris Matthews, seemed to be trying to recast himself as a moderate by painting other anti-choice legislators as extremists. When Matthews asked which anti-choicers on the Senate side Stupak might be working with on abortion language, he pressed Stupak for names. Maybe Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, or Ben Nelson of Nebraska?

"Well," Stupak replied, "if you're gonna get the extremes on both sides, then you can't find common ground; I agree with you. You really have to try to find people much like myself, who are the moderates, who will actually try to work with leadership."

But Stupak also struck a note of bitterness, complaining that pro-choice Democrats had kept him from offereing anti-choice amendments to legislation other than heath-care reform, and balking at his opponents' complaints about his amendment.

"You know, we had a fair-and-square vote; we won -- 55 percent of the representatives said we should not have public funds paying for abortion, so you win on the floor, now suddenly they want us to come back and compromise."


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