White House Pressuring Rep. Stupak into Silence on Abortion

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) has said that the White House and House leadership have tried to pressure him into silence about the so-called abortion compromise language accepted by Sen. Nelson in the Senate version of the health care bill.

“They think I shouldn’t be expressing my views on this bill until they get a chance to try to sell me the language,” he told CNSNews.com.  “Well, I don’t need anyone to sell me the language. I can read it. I’ve seen it. I’ve worked with it. I know what it says. I don’t need to have a conference with the White House. I have the legislation in front of me here.”

Rep. Stupak spearheaded the effort that put Hyde-amendment language banning the federal funding of most abortions in the House version of the health care bill. Sen. Ben Nelson, however, destroyed the prospect of identical language in the Senate version of the bill by capitulating to a far weaker compromise.  Stupak says that the White House and House have tried to keep him from speaking about its flaws.

“They asked me just to hold off for a while and not to say anything about this language,” he said. “But as soon as the news broke that they had this [Nelson compromise], and they got the 60 votes, folks were asking me, and I’m not going to run from the issue – I’m going to stand up and say, ‘Look, here’s my objections.’”

In a press release last Sunday, Stupak outlined some of his reasons for stating that “the Senate abortion language is not acceptable.”

“A review of the Senate language indicates a dramatic shift in federal policy that would allow the federal government to subsidize insurance policies with abortion coverage,” he wrote.  “Further, the segregation of funds to pay for abortion is another departure from current policy prohibiting federal subsidy of abortion coverage.”

A vote to pass the health care overhaul is expected early on Christmas Eve. Should the bill pass, it will return to negotiations between the Senate and the House, in which the differences between the Senate and House version of the bill would be reconciled.  Stupak has vowed to hold firm in ensuring that the Stupak amendment remains in the final version of the bill.

“We are going to hold firm and make sure the Stupak-Pitts language stays when this legislation comes back to us. We will not vote for this bill if that language is not there,” Stupak said.

Should Stupak and his allies not endorse the revised bill, some think it likely that the bill would not pass: the House bill previously passed by only a three-vote margin and Stupak says that there are “at least 10 to 12 members who have said repeatedly, unless this language is fixed and current law is maintained and no public funding for abortion, they’re not gonna’  vote for the bill.”

On being asked what he would do if the bill returned to the House without his language, Stupak said he would remain firm.

“We’ll have a conversation if it comes back that way,” Stupak said. “Not a negotiation; a conversation.”

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