IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Stupak explains his opposition to health bill

On Thursday, The Daily Rundown's Savannah Guthrie and Chuck Todd interview Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., on his decision not to support the health care bill while it contains abortion language. Stupak asserted that he would support the bill, however, if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama agreed to codify the Hyde Amendment.
/ Source: MSNBC

On Thursday, The Daily Rundown's Savannah Guthrie and Chuck Todd interview Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., on his decision not to support the health care bill while it contains abortion language. Stupak asserted that he would support the bill, however, if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama agreed to codify the Hyde Amendment.

Below is the complete transcript.

CHUCK TODD, CO-HOST, THE DAILY RUNDOWN: Well, the so-called "Stupak Dozen" is dwindling. Facing intense pressure from the president and the party, some anti-abortion Democrats are now indicating they'll vote "yes" on the bill.  

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, CO-HOST, THE DAILY RUNDOWN: But can Democrats twist enough arms to get 216 votes?  Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak says without a deal on abortion, he is a firm no. Congressman, good morning.  Thanks for being with us.  

REP. BART STUPAK, D-MICH.: Good morning.  

GUTHRIE: I'm sure you know some of your colleagues. I'm thinking of Congressman Kildee, have now said they feel this Senate language does go far enough.  They feel as strongly about this issue as you do, and yet they are convinced it does not directly subsidize abortion, does not directly use taxpayer funds for abortion. Do you disagree?  Can you explain how federal money directly pays for abortion under this Senate bill House members are being asked to pass?  

STUPAK:  Sure. As I mentioned to Congressman Kildee last night, he should look at page 237, subtitle "e." On that page, it indicates how the refundable tax credits goes to the policyholder to go to the insurance policy of the policyholder, the spouse and dependent children. That policy is paid for with refundable tax credits from the federal government.  

The money is flowing from the federal government to the exchange every month for that policy, and that policy contains abortion. That is a subsidy of abortion by the federal government, outlawed and has been outlawed by the last 33 years underneath the Hyde language which says no funding of abortion, no funding of insurance policies for abortion, and you're not use — spend money for administrative costs for abortion services.  

So it's a complete departure from it, it's a radical departure.  

TODD: I guess the confusion by some democrats is this — if Ben Nelson can sign off on something like this, I mean, Ben Nelson is not somebody that would have probably signed on to something that was a radical departure from the Hyde Amendment. You're making a money is fungible argument, but there is no direct federal funding of this. Isn't that correct? 

STUPAK: No. No. There is direct funding. There is direct funding. Also, look at page 2,070, where they say abortion must be in these policies. So the money didn't go to the individual. It went —

GUTHRIE: Well, not all policies.  

STUPAK: — it went — not all of them.  

TODD: It would be a choice, not every policy. And the idea is that an exchange that there would be some insurance — there would be some offers that would not cover abortion at all in the exchange.  

STUPAK: Yes, but you also have to admit, on page 2,070 where they talk about abortion, at least one plan, could be nine out of ten plans, would have abortion coverage. OK?

Look, the policy has always been — federal government does not fund abortions, whether directly or — nor do we fund insurance policies that pay for abortion. That's always been the law.

Now, going back to Senator Nelson, you have to remember Senator Hatch and Senator Casey tried to run the Stupak Amendment in the Senate and it was tabled. It never came up, it was tabled.  This is a backup position. So — go ahead.  

GUTHRIE: Are you basically saying this health care reform bill overturns the Hyde Amendment?  

STUPAK: Yes. Know though, if you read the bill.  

TODD: All right. Well, then, let's go the other way. I'll be honest. I've seen Congress — you guys can put an amendment on anything. Now, I know you can't do it on the way this exact procedure is going to work.  

Has there been any talk of, say, in two weeks or when you come back from the Easter recess a commitment by the House democratic leadership to say, OK, let's try this amendment again on a separate budget bill that would, you know, sort of be tacked onto this later? Why hasn't there been any talk of that kind of compromise?  

STUPAK: Well, there has been, but you and I both know, Chuck, that tomorrow never comes in Washington. Promises are always made, and they never get fulfilled. The thought of we'll do it later —

TODD: Well, hang on.  

STUPAK: — it doesn't resolve the issue. 

TODD: I think a lot of people thought, Congressman, that your original amendment wouldn't come through. And I can tell you a lot of people thought there's no way Speaker Pelosi will go — and she did go through with this, she kept her end of the bargain. Why do you think now she won't going forward?  

STUPAK: Well, she had to keep her bargain because they reneged on the previous agreement we had. On Friday night before the vote, we had an agreement, we all shook hands. Two hours later, she called me up and said the agreement is off.  She needed our votes to pass the bill therefore, that's why she gave me the amendment. It wasn't because that was a promise that I'd get my amendment on the floor.  I had to force the hand by withholding the only thing I had, which is my voting card. So if you withhold your vote, maybe then they will discuss the issue with you and maybe then you can resolve the issue.  

The only reason why the Stupak Amendment ever came forth was because the pro-choice people rejected the agreement we had with the speaker. We did have a compromise, it was all worked out, and the pro-choice people said no we're demanding a vote because we'll beat them on the floor. 

So I stood on a principle, I took it to the House floor, and we won. And that's the majority of the American people, the majority of people in my district want. They do not want federal funding of abortion, federal funding of insurance policies that pay for abortion.  

GUTHRIE: Congressman Stupak, I guess just take a step back here, because as you well know, the Senate bill has the this regime approved by Senator Nelson among others whereby some of the plans but not all in the exchange can offer abortion if a person wants to be a part of that plan, that person has to put a dollar aside every month — this includes men, too, if they enroll in that plan —  that goes into a fund. So there's been a real herculean effort to siphon off those funds, such that federal taxpayer dollars do not pay for abortion.  

I take your point because you're saying, oh, if there's refundable tax credits and people get some money back and say they pick a plan with abortion, then that technically is federal funding paying for abortion. But I will just quote for you what your colleague, Congressman Kildee, who also is anti-abortion said.  He said, there is nothing more pro-life than protecting the lives of 31 million Americans.  

But I guess that's the question. Do you feel at all concerned that here you have a bill that works very, very hard to keep federal funds out of abortion, it may not be perfect but it tries to do that, and you're voting no against it at the loss of perhaps coverage to 30 million Americans?  

STUPAK: OK. Number one, the bill doesn't give any tax credit to the individual. Under the bill, the refundable tax credit goes to the insurance company that's paying for the abortion coverage.  So the person is in there. The person does write a $1 check per month, OK, but the policy is paid for directly by federal funds going to the insurance companies.  So that's a big difference. It's not — you don't write it off on your income tax. This is a policy. The money is coming directly from the federal government.  

Secondly, are we concerned —

GUTHRIE:  But are they permitted to use that money, that tax credit for abortion services?  Isn't that banned by the Hyde Amendment?

STUPAK:  Yes, and that's why — that's why you want the Hyde Amendment in there so we cannot do that.  

Look it, help pay for the insurance policy for those 31 million American, I'm all for it.  I favor health insurance Let's help them, the 31.  But if you want this policy over here for abortion, then pay for it with your own money. Don't use the refundable tax credits to pay for it.  

That's the point we're trying to make.  Let's keep the Hyde language like it's been for the last 33 years. Everyone says they want to keep current law, let's keep current law. If you want to set up a mechanism where you pay a dollar a month, the actuarial value, you can do that.  Just don't have — put it part of this policy that the federal government's being asked to pay for it, because the federal government does not pay for abortion nor does it pay for insurance policies that cover abortion.  

That's always been law. Federal employees cannot buy a policy that has abortion in it. That's been the law for all these years. Why are we changing it?  Let's get health care done.  

TODD: If Speaker Pelosi and the president agree to codify the Hyde Amendment — because right now the Hyde Amendment always has to be sort of re —

STUPAK: Every year.  

TODD: Every year, renewed.  

STUPAK: Correct.  

TODD: If they codified it in the law, regardless of where this is right now and this language stayed the same, would that be enough to get your vote?  

STUPAK: If they codified it, if they put our language in there and then picked the language out of eight different bills? Sure, absolutely. I want to see health care pass as much as Speaker Pelosi and President Obama.  

GUTHRIE: Before we let you go, Congressman Stupak, we noticed your quote where you said since you've come out and taken a stand like this, your life has been a living hell.  

STUPAK: Yes.  

GUTHRIE: What does that mean?  

STUPAK: What does it mean?  It means that some people who disagree with me, they can't have an honest discussion about it. You get cussed out wherever you go.  

TODD: Oh, geez.

STUPAK: Unfortunately for my wife, she's got to unplug her phone at night because you get the phone calls at 2:00 a.m., 3:00 a.m. in the morning and they're not asking me about my position, they want to cuss you out. So she can't even — even do that. 

My staff is overwhelmed and we're accosted basically wherever we go by people who disagree. We should have disagreements in this country. I, for one, am standing on a principle most Americans agree with. There's no reason for that language, abusive behavior to my family, my staff, or even myself.