One of the Democratic negotiators who most outraged the Tea Party forces during the health care debate has decided to retire from Congress. Bart Stupak of Michigan provided the decisive bloc of House Democrats to vote for the historic bill after securing President Obama’s agreement to issue an executive order prohibiting any funds from the law to be used for abortions.
Stupak has been reviled by tea partiers for pushing health care reform, and by the far Left for his anti-abortion stand. But I expect that when the history books are written about this monumental time, Stupak will be recognized as a courageous leader of the ever-shrinking businesslike middle that actually tried to negotiate and get things done in Congress.
Contrast Stupak with Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, a red-state Democrat who ran for cover and voted against the health care package, siding with the Republican “Party of No” minority juggernaut. No bipartisan negotiating allowed. No one will remember Matheson’s role, except that he was frightened by tea partiers.
Stupak said he’s tired and has been thinking of retirement for years anyway. The Tea Party campaign against him may have played a part too. But he can go out realizing he provided the final puzzle piece for unprecedented health care reform, albeit an imperfect concoction.
Republicans always eventually embrace social programs such as Social Security and Medicare, after first pulling out all stops to prevent them. It will be the same with health care, especially the pieces of the new reform that prove to be the most beneficial for rank-and-file Americans — and voters. The future GOP candidates will be able to thank Obama and Stupak, but of course that will not happen.