He stated that both NRLC and the bishops wanted statutory language to “protect the sanctity of life in the bill.”
“So do I, that was the Stupak Amendment, we passed that in the House,” the lawmaker told CNA.
“The reality is, in Senate you need 60 votes, we have 45 pro-life votes, as I’ve told both the Catholic bishops and Right to Life.
“Help me find 15 more votes, and we’ll 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.”
He quoted the executive order, which says it “maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to the newly created health insurance exchanges.”
CNA asked whether he thought the bishops’ actions in the health care debate helped secure the executive order. “No, because they wouldn’t support it,” Stupak replied. The fate of the Stupak Amendment was “decided in December,” he added.
For the bishops or any others to seek statutory language and not agree to an executive order, is “pie in the sky,” in Rep. Stupak’s opinion.
“Find me 15 more votes. I’ll be happy to run the language, I’ll personally walk it over to the Senate. But you need 15 more votes, realistically. There comes a point in time you’ve got to be honest and say ‘here’s what we can and can’t do.”
The Democratic Congressman also charged that 41 GOP Senators’ 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.
“On March 4 Senate Republicans circulated a letter committed to opposing any policy changes made through reconciliation,” Stupak told CNA.
“Any 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.”
Asked to respond to Rep. Trent Franks’ (R-Ariz.) charge that he fell for a “false solution” and was perhaps “deceived” by the administration, Stupak said “I totally disagree. I’m not going to respond to every personal charge.”
He then reiterated his Wednesday statement’s contrast between what he saw as an enthusiastic pro-life reaction to President Bush’s 2007 executive order on embryonic stem cell funding and the critical reaction to President Obama’s new order on abortion funding.
“I don’t think we missed anything,” he stated. “I think we got the job done.”
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 “any reports of any federal clinics or anyone performing abortions.”
If he is shown something indicating otherwise, he said, “let’s take a look at it.”