‘STUPAK HAPPENS TO BE WRONG’…. Arguably the single biggest threat to health care reform is Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and his dozen Democratic allies, who are threatening to kill the legislation over indirect, circuitous funding of abortion.
Efforts to work with Stupak are ongoing, but it’s worth emphasizing a relevant detail: Stupak is just wrong about the underlying policy dispute. Whether he knows he’s wrong, and he’s just hoping to kill health care reform, is unclear. But the accuracy of Stupak’s claims aren’t in dispute: the facts aren’t on his side.
ABC News did a nice job fact-checking Stupak’s argument this week, and Slate‘s Tim Noah (a Monthly alum) published the definitive takedown a couple of days ago, explaining that some areas of the debate are open to interpretation and debate, but this isn’t one of them: “Stupak happens to be wrong.”
Ideally, this would be enough. Democratic leaders would explain the truth to Stupak and his allies, making the case on the merits — the Senate compromise language, endorsed by center-right Dems who oppose abortion rights, already does what Stupak & Co. want, which is to prevent public funding of abortion.
But Stupak has been reluctant to listen to reason, and continues to make claims that simply fail to stand up to scrutiny. The new goal is to strike a related deal that would address Stupak’s concerns in a separate-but-connected bill. That may or may not be enough.
If reform is going to pass, however, the votes are going to have to come from somewhere. Stupak claims to have a dozen “yes” votes in his pocket, all of whom will bolt and side with Republicans. Without them, Pelosi would need a dozen Blue Dogs who opposed reform in November to switch, which may prove too high a hurdle.
In the meantime, though, it’s worth re-emphasizing reality — Stupak’s argument is factually in error. That will make negotiations with him more complicated — lawmakers who stick to a mistake after it’s been exposed as a mistake can be challenging to deal with — but that’s where we find ourselves.