The Corner

It Wasn’t Just Stupak

A friend with experience on Capitol Hill writes in:

I continue to be mad about this Pro-life Democrat situation, so pardon me for venting.

Even if they are in relatively safe districts I think the story needs to be told about how Oberstar, Kildee, and Doyle were the true traitors to the pro-life position.  Stupak gets all the heat, but Oberstar, Kildee, and Doyle did all the work to undermine Stupak and leave him isolated.  If Oberstar or Kildee had stood with Stupak I bet this would have had a different outcome.

There is one unreported pivotal point that hits me again and again. Stupak caved at the very last minute and there is no excuse for that, but I really do think he caved b/c his group was being divided, and he was losing his coalition.  So how did that happen?  How did his coalition collapse?  Perhaps the saddest, most disappointing part of the Stupak saga is the fact that it was the “old bulls” of the pro-life Democrats who brought him down. It was pro-life leaders who have been in Congress for decades who played to their leadership and drove a wedge in Stupak’s coalition.  And while folks like Stupak and “vulnerable” junior members of the House will pay the price, nobody is talking about the impact of the betrayal of the old guard b/c the veteran Members may seem too safe to oust.  Yet much of the blame MUST be placed at their feet and on their consciences.

Dale Kildee was most vocal in his efforts to undermine Stupak, but Oberstar appeared more active on a Member to Member level trying to convince them to split from Stupak.  Kildee is the easiest to point to b/c he sent a Dear Colleague on March 17, saying he would support the bill.  Cuellar was influenced to vote yes by Kildee’s speech. Oberstar is a former Pro-life Caucus Co-chair, who telegraphed that he would be voting for the bill on Wednesday/Thursday.  Oberstar was then seen on the House floor actively lobbying Stupak holdouts to vote for the bill. I am convinced he transferred the Pro-life Caucus chairmanship to Stupak so that he could then undermine him on tough votes like this and eventually tear apart the caucus (actually I think his Chief of Staff is the one who gamed this out).

Their reversals cut Stupak off at the knees and put Pelosi on her path to final passage.  Stupak gave in because his coalition had unraveled and who was doing the unraveling? Kildee, Oberstar, and Mike Doyle. Doyle caved on the abortion language way back in July when he signed on as the pro-life “front” to the Capps amendment. He continued working behind the scenes to broker the White House sham of a deal for an Executive Order (as explained in detail in this article).

I just hate for them to get away with this and let Stupak take all the heat.  They are responsible, more so than Stupak.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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