Rep. Stupak: Dems overreached; Senate health bill is DOA; Nelson should have 'held tough' on abortion 

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., might be the most important man in the House of Representatives at this moment. If Speaker Nancy Pelosi seeks to sneak the Senate's version of health insurance reform back through the House "as is" for a quick presidential signature, he will be working against her, fighting to restore language from the House-passed bill that prohibits any public funding of abortion.

Today, he appeared on Fox Business Network and declared the Senate bill dead on arrival in the House: "I bet it wouldn't get a hundred votes."

Stupak, on the Massachusetts election's effect on health care:

STUPAK: I think for the party, it's hopefully a wake-up call to leadership that the agenda you set and the pace you're going, and you have to be more inclusive of all members....

The Senate bill, and I know leadership has flowed with the idea over the weekend that let's just take the Senate bill and just vote on it in the House floor. I bet it wouldn't get a hundred votes. Members are very upset about the Senate bill, and I think that's what's led to this -- part of this election. I mean, people were disappointed and disillusioned what the Senate did, especially when -- especially when it looked like states were paid off for their vote, for that 60th vote. Have we relegated the legislative body to who can get the best deal? You know, this was health care. This legislation should have been based on policy. People should have been able to put their vote up based on policy, not on what did I get for my state. And that really soured the American people and House members. We're not willing to take that Senate bill, that Nebraska's guy's special deal or Louisiana or Florida or whatever. That's not that way you do it....

On his party's leadership:

STUPAK: [C]an I use the word "overreached?" They tried to hit a homerun with health care instead of hitting -- let's get a single, let's get a double. You know, build on this. But they went for the whole grand slam and it got thrown back. It got too big, too controversial, and it's just like they overreached.

This leadership, both the House, the Senate, and the presidency, I think have to be more in tune to what the people are saying. Yes, we want health care, but don't give us a 2,600 page bill that no one can understand, that most of the members have never read. They don't -- do health care. Let's help those who really have difficult times. Let's -- the rescissions, you shouldn't have your insurance policy cancelled without just cause. Preexisting injuries, why do we still discriminate against people who have preexisting injuries? Can't we put some kind of caps or lift those caps on there? Why can't my son stay on my health insurance, if I want, until he's 26 years old? Why can't we put a catastrophic fund which industry and businesses have been asking for years? Why can't the federal government put together catastrophic fund?

Those were provisions that would have taken effect immediately if the House bill would have been signed in law by the president. So those consumer protection ones, the ones that really effect the daily lives for Americans that doesn't cost a lot of money, doesn't cost a trillion dollars, why can't we do that now? So that's where I'd like to see leadership go with this legislation now...

On the need for a "Plan C" on health care:

STUPAK: Well, last night was still stiff upper lip and we'll prevail and we'll make it through Massachusetts. We're all looking to Jersey. We're not going to make it through Massachusetts, what's the backup plan? And if the backup plan was the Senate bill, it was no. There's no way that bill is going anywhere, so you better start looking at paring back.

And when we left last night, there was a caucus, a Democratic caucus after votes, and it was like, here's what we've done on health care, we're a lot a closer, we almost got this bill done. And we're all saying it's not going to make any difference come Wednesday morning, so where do we go from here. And I'm sure the leadership will be huddling with committee chairs and committee members and come up with a "Plan C", if you will. Everyone's talking about Plan B, Plan B is dead. We're not passing the Senate bill, so you best come up with Plan C now.

On his version of "Plan C:"

STUPAK: I think members are saying, let's go back. Maybe this -- maybe this public option, maybe this exchange is reaching too much. It was hard to explain to people, they're not -- why don't we just say, look, if you're under this income, look at this plan that's already in existence. Why not lower your Medicare down to 55 as opposed to 65? The hardest age group to insure is that 55 to 65-year-old age group. Why not let them come into Medicare a little sooner. How do they pay for it? They still have their income tax on there, that's how you pay for Medicare, plus the monthly premium, you got to pay your Part B and Part D. So you could do things like that program already exists and the administrative cost on Medicare is 2 to 3 percent. That's a pretty good deal.

So you can do some things. Just take away the antitrust exemption for insurance companies, just to bring competition. Allow those pools to go across state lines. Why not? I mean, it doesn’t cost anything to say insurance can now offer policies across state line provided two states are offering insurances, the policies are standardized policies....[T]he president, in a way, is sort of set up here to deliver health care. I mean, you have a House plan that the Senate doesn't necessarily like. You have the Senate plan that the House doesn't like. So it's a good opportunity now for the president to say, we've heard the American people. Two plans out here competing, I'm taking the best of both parts to put it together in one plan and let's put in that reconciliation bill that you spoke of. You only need 51 votes in the Senate, we avoid the 60-vote majority rule or filibuster, and present it that way...

On Senator Ben Nelson, D-Neb., who dropped his demands to stop federal abortion funding in ObamaCare in exchange for a special deal for his state:

STUPAK: Throughout the process, I talked a number of times to Senator Nelson. I never really saw his final proposal until maybe the day before they voted on it. And I encouraged him just to hold tough...[W]e not restricting a woman's right to chose, what we're saying is no public funding for abortion. You want an abortion, that's your right, don’t ask us to pay for it. So no public funding for abortion. He should have held on that principle....The Nelson Amendment did a number of different things and got so complicated. I mean, mine's a two-page amendment. Every time you look at these amendments, whether it's the Nelson Amendment or the Capps Amendment, which started this whole fight, if you will, they're all 10 to 12 pages. It's sort of like when the American people say, wait a minute, there's no public funding for abortion, you can put that on one page. Why do you need 12 pages to try to explain what you're doing? Well, because you've got this here and this one has to pay this and that. It gets all complicated.

EDSON: Do you think Nelson gave a bit too much in exchange for a Medicaid deal in his state?

STUPAK: ...[W]hat Nelson did was representing his state, I understand that. But what Nelson did saying, in the future, Nebraska doesn't have to pay their share of Medicaid, that's illegal. It's unconstitutional. I mean, that'd be like me saying, OK, for my vote on health care, here's what I want, the people of Michigan won't all have to pay any federal income tax. We can't do that. It's unconstitutional. We all have to pay our fair share of a program like this.

So I'm surprised they gave it to Nelson...[I]t diminished the quality of the health care bill when everyone's making deals...

About The Author

David Freddoso

David Freddoso came to the Washington Examiner in June 2009, after serving for nearly two years as a Capitol Hill-based staff reporter for National Review Online. Before writing his New York Times bestselling book, The Case Against Barack Obama, he spent three years assisting Robert Novak, the legendary Washington... more
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