Stupak starts making threats

STUPAK STARTS MAKING THREATS…. Remember when it seemed as if the fight over public-private competition in health care threatened to derail the entire effort? That was so two weeks ago. Now, it’s abortion.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) was able to get his odious amendment through the House, but it’s unlikely to do as well in the Senate, especially after President Obama signaled his desire to see it changed. It led the Michigan Democrat to start making threats today.

“We won because [the Democrats] need us,” Stupak said. “If they are going to summarily dismiss us by taking the pen to that language, there will be hell to pay. I don’t say it as a threat, but if they double-cross us, there will be 40 people who won’t vote with them the next time they need us — and that could be the final version of this bill.”

There are some pretty dramatic problems with this bravado. For one thing, there’s no “double-cross” — Speaker Pelosi let him bring his measure up for a vote and it passed. There was never any deal that the Senate had to follow suit. For another, according to House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Stupak brought 10 votes, not 40.

Indeed, it’s probably worth noting that Stupak has proven to be something on an extremist when it comes to opposing women’s reproductive rights, but it’s not all clear that he represents an unyielding bloc of lawmakers. It’s not unreasonable to think that some of the same pro-life Dems who voted for Stupak/Pitts and the reform bill may also be willing to accept a compromise that Stupak would reject.

Amy Sullivan reminds us of the votes on the other side of the Democratic divide.

It’s worth noting as well that at least 40 pro-choice Democrats led by Congresswoman Diana DeGette have vowed to oppose a final version of health reform if it includes the Stupak language. I’ve talked to a lot of people this week who outright dismiss that possibility because “these are liberals — they want health reform. They won’t vote against it.” But that’s the same thing we heard for months about the Stupak coalition. “They’re just making noise. They’ll vote for it in the end.” And while, yes, some of those pro-life Democrats were also conservatives who opposed health reform — and voted against it anyway — on other grounds, many were Catholics who want health reform for social justice reasons.

Bottom line: this fight isn’t going away. Polls may show that voters care far more about the economy and other matters than social issues right now. But in Congress, decades of old wounds over abortion fights have been reopened.

And guess who’s thrilled about that: Republicans, who see this as the new key to killing health care reform.

A spokesperson for Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said, “If defeating Stupak wouldn’t [have changed] the outcome on Saturday, then it is clearly evident that having it in and sparking a civil war amongst the Democrats is the best way to stop the overall bill.”