.- The health care reform bill would have passed the House without the votes of Rep. Bart Stupakâs pro-life Democrats because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi âalways carries a number of votes in her pocket,â Stupak told CNA in a Thursday phone interview.
The Michigan Democrat explained that by opting for the executive order, pro-life Democrats believe they ensured the legislation was âsomewhat restrictiveâ towards abortion funding.
âSpeakers never bring a bill to the floor, unless they have the votes. And they always have few in reserve,â Stupak revealed, describing this as a âcommon tacticâ that was used in the defeat of the Dornan Amendment in a funding bill earlier this year.
âThe Speaker always carries a number of votes in her pocket,â he said, meaning that some members who voted ânoâ would have voted âyesâ if needed.
âI had a number of members who thanked us after because they could vote no.â
Rep. Stupak said he thought the votes available for Sundayâs vote totaled 222.
The Congressman explained the political tactic in response to a question about how he would respond to pro-life advocates who felt betrayed by his vote for the legislation.
He suggested these advocates were ânot aware of the legislative process,â explaining that there were only 45 âlife votesâ in the Senate.
âOur group of pro-life Democrats stood up, we passed the Stupak Amendment with 240 votes, we pushed it all the way to the last moment.
âThe Speaker could have passed this bill without us, and then you would have a bill laden with federal government funding for abortion, especially federally funded health centers.
âSo now we have a bill that is somewhat restrictive, not as much as we like. And we have an executive order that will enforce the Hyde provisions in this new law,â he continued, characterizing the order as an âironclad commitment.â
According to Stupak, an important colloquy he had with Rep. Waxman (D-Calif.) on the House floor established Congressional intent because when there is a court challenge, âand Iâm sure there will be,â the courts will look to that for guidance.
He asked his critics to âlook at the executive order, and read it.â
In Rep. Stupakâs view, securing President Obamaâs executive order on abortion funding was âabsolutelyâ a success for the pro-life cause and for the country.
In the course of the interview, CNA asked Rep. Stupak about remarks he reportedly made accusing the U.S. bishops and pro-life groups of hypocrisy.
The Daily Caller had reported that Rep. Stupak said he suspected groups such as the U.S. bishopsâ conference (USCCB), the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and others were âjust using the life issue to try to bring down health care reform.â
âDid they want to protect the sanctity of life or did they want to protect health care?â the Daily Caller reported Stupak as saying.
The Congressman initially denied this was an accurate account, but then commented further.
He told CNA he questioned whether some of the pro-life groups âwere more interested in protecting the sanctity of life or defeating health care.â
Asked if he included the U.S. bishops in that, he replied ânot necessarily.â
Since the time he made remarks questioning pro-life groupsâ motives, he said, the U.S. bishopsâ most recent statement has led him to believe they were still interested in passing health care.
âNational Right to Life, I donât think they ever were. I think they were more interested in defeating the health care bill, no matter what it costs.
âBut at the time I made that statement, yeah, the way I explained it, thatâs true.â
He stated that both NRLC and the bishops wanted statutory language to âprotect the sanctity of life in the bill.â
âSo do I, that was the Stupak Amendment, we passed that in the House,â the lawmaker told CNA.
âThe reality is, in Senate you need 60 votes, we have 45 pro-life votes, as Iâve told both the Catholic bishops and Right to Life.
âHelp me find 15 more votes, and weâll pass your statutory language. Until that time, we cannot. Therefore we have to do all we can to protect the sanctity of life, and that is why the executive order, the colloquy, and the language of the bill will, to my mind, protect the sanctity of life.â
He quoted the executive order, which says it âmaintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to the newly created health insurance exchanges.â
CNA asked whether he thought the bishopsâ actions in the health care debate helped secure the executive order. âNo, because they wouldnât support it,â Stupak replied. The fate of the Stupak Amendment was âdecided in December,â he added.
For the bishops or any others to seek statutory language and not agree to an executive order, is âpie in the sky,â in Rep. Stupakâs opinion.
âFind me 15 more votes. Iâll be happy to run the language, Iâll personally walk it over to the Senate. But you need 15 more votes, realistically. There comes a point in time youâve got to be honest and say âhereâs what we can and canât do.â
The Democratic Congressman also charged that 41 GOP Senatorsâ strict commitment to the Byrd Rule prevented the Stupak Amendment from being reconsidered. That rule bars the use of the legislative reconciliation process to enact policy changes.
âOn March 4 Senate Republicans circulated a letter committed to opposing any policy changes made through reconciliation,â Stupak told CNA.
âAny policy change. That would have been my amendment. I called a number of Republican Senators, and some of the leadership, and they said they would not allow even a joint resolution on Hyde language to come to the floor to a vote.â
Asked to respond to Rep. Trent Franksâ (R-Ariz.) charge that he fell for a âfalse solutionâ and was perhaps âdeceivedâ by the administration, Stupak said âI totally disagree. Iâm not going to respond to every personal charge.â
He then reiterated his Wednesday statementâs contrast between what he saw as an enthusiastic pro-life reaction to President Bushâs 2007 executive order on embryonic stem cell funding and the critical reaction to President Obamaâs new order on abortion funding.
âI donât think we missed anything,â he stated. âI think we got the job done.â
While there may be future opportunities to fix the legislation on abortion, he said, he did not indicate he saw flaws in the application of the abortion funding provisions.
The executive order has just gone into effect, he explained, saying he has not heard âany reports of any federal clinics or anyone performing abortions.â
If he is shown something indicating otherwise, he said, âletâs take a look at it.â