Stupak: HHS Mandate was a Double Cross

I’ve written several times that President Obama lied to Congressman Bart Stupak in order to get the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) through Congress.

The tactics used against pro life Democrats in order to pass this legislation totally destroyed the nascent pro life movement in the national Democratic Party. According to news reports, the Obama administration threatened to close military bases in Senator Ben Nelson’s state of Nebraska, thus putting tens of thousands of his constituents out of work. These threats were made in order to secure the 60th vote necessary to stop a filibuster in the United States Senate.

The president persuaded Congressman Bart Stupak to abandon his fight to block the bill in the House by giving him an “ironclad” promise that he would issue an executive order guaranteeing religious freedom and no federal monies for abortion under the bill. The president did issue an executive order, which I personally thought was insufficient, even at the time.

First an executive order is not a statute, and this critical issue clearly needed statutory force. Second the executive order itself was insufficient.

However, the president put the lie to his own promise when he followed this executive order by signing, promoting and putting the entire force of his presidency behind the ignominious HHS Mandate. The HHS Mandate is an egregious and direct attack on religious freedom. His administration’s arguments against court challenges to this mandate have sought to restrict First Amendment freedoms to religious practices inside church buildings.

If President Obama wins the court challenges to the HHS Mandate, using these arguments, it will be the death of religious freedom in this country. It will also set off a Constitutional crisis more serious than anything America has faced since the Civil War. That is the outcome of Congressman Stupak’s actions.

Congressman Stupak returned to private life after the session in which Obamacare passed. But he was one of the early opponents of the HHS Mandate. He signed a letter against the Mandate in which he referenced the fact that President Obama had betrayed his promises.

Now, he’s taken it a step further and publicly stated that the HHS Mandate is a double cross.

What does all this amount to?

One thing: The President of the United States is a liar. He’s not a liar on whether or not he caught a minnow that was six feet long. He’s not a liar on whether or not he had an affair with a woman. He’s a calculated, deliberate liar on matters of policy that affect the American people. He lied to a member of the United States Congress on a matter of extreme importance to this country to get the congressman’s vote.

There’s no coming back from that.

I know that a lot of pro life people want to burn Congressman Stupak in effigy. I, for one, never believed the president. I can’t find the exact word for how I felt when I watched the vote on this bill and heard Congressman Stupak’s comments. It was a mixture of pity and sorrow, coupled with grief.

I’ve experienced a bit of the pressure that is put on Democratic elected officials to get them to betray their pro life beliefs. I have a lot of sympathy for Senator Nelson, for the simple reason that he was responsible for his constituents. It’s a terrible thing to tell an elected official that if they don’t do what you want, you will destroy the lives of tens of thousands of the constituents it is their job to protect.

I’ve seen this happen on the state level, for a lot less than the Affordable Health Care Act. I’ve seen Democrats threaten to close colleges in another Democrat’s house district if they didn’t change their vote on a bill. I’ve seen a Republican speaker threaten a Democratic House member with the closure of a major industry in his district if the Democrat didn’t stop asking questions that the Speaker found embarrassing. I’ve seen pro life Republicans kill pro life bills at the behest of corporate interests. I’ve been on the receiving end of pro abortion Democrats’ demands that I kill pro life bills for party loyalty.

I’ve seen things a lot worse than what I just described, that I don’t want to write about.

I don’t doubt for one minute that the Obama administration threatened to put tens of thousands of people out of work, just simply to pass a bill. I also don’t doubt that Congressman Stupak was the object of intense hate, vilification and threats over this vote. President Obama is not only a liar, but he’s a convincing liar, and I don’t doubt that Congressman Stupak believed him.

I have never experienced the pressure that happens at the national level. I imagine it’s the difference between a 1,000-pound bomb and a hydrogen bomb. It is localized annihilation versus national annihilation.

Just the same, I can tell you that what I went through was more than enough for me. I didn’t fail. I passed the pro life bill the Democrats tried to force me to kill. I thank God for that. I mean that literally. I thank God for that.

Unlike Congressman Stupak and Senator Nelson, I had the great help of my own past. I knew what abortion was, and I knew what I had done in the past. There is no certainty quite like looking at the depth of your own depravity. It is absolutely shattering. After that, you stop trying to be smart, because you know that your own smarts have led you to do what you can never undo.

I also had the experience of having seen the lying liars of politics before. I had matriculated through the school of being in office and out of office and then back in office once again. That perspective lets you to see the lies of politics as nothing else can.

I knew that sometimes you just have to do what’s right and put the rest in God’s hands. It’s a matter of stepping out onto what looks like thin air and trusting that He will put solid ground under your foot. “Lean not on your own understanding,” the Scriptures tell us. “Trust and obey,” the hymn teaches. That is exactly what you have to do.

Bart Stupak believed a lying president, and the action he took because he believed let the genie out of the bottle. I know I’m going to get roasted and toasted by the absolutists in Public Catholic’s readership, but I feel sorry for him. I felt sorry for him at the time. He had such a magnificent opportunity to stand for life. And he gave it away for a lie.

Based on the op-ed piece he wrote for USA Today, Congressman Stupak is still trying to parse what he did. I don’t think he can accept that it was a disaster, and not just for him personally. It was a disaster for this nation, allowing as it did the formulation of the HHS Mandate.

It was an unmitigated disaster for the fight for life and for Christian values generally. The resulting purge of pro life Democrats from the Democratic Party has resulted in one of our two national parties going totally over the cliff on moral issues.

This is a terrible thing, for all Americans. Knowing what I know of politics and both of these two national parties, I can tell you that Christians no longer have a choice at the ballot box. I always get rebuffed by hard-core Republicans when I say this, but I will continue to say it, because it is true. Both parties are amoral. Without a balance of push and pull between them to keep one another honest, they will, either one of them, do terrible things. This isn’t something I’m guessing about. I’ve seen it.

By destroying the growing pro life movement within the Democratic Party, Congressman Stupak’s actions also destroyed the single best chance this country had to find legislative resolutions to the social issues that are tearing it apart. We need both parties to change this country. Congressman Stupak’s actions polarized the fight in a horrible way.

I feel sorry for him.

And for all of us.

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  • Smithgift

    The comments in the linked USA Today column sickened me. One of our nation’s most cherished principles is at stake—and people are still bickering over party loyalties? What has become of our nation?

  • SisterCynthia

    Mr. Stupak is in a bad place, for sure. We never want to have to look into the depths of our own failures and admit what we’ve done, either because of our gullibility or our own evil inclinations. It’s painful. And humbling. And apart from asking for/receiving from God His mercy and forgiveness, it is crippling. I hope he will be able to go to the One who can set his feet on a solid place and help him move forward.

    • hamiltonr

      Excellent comment Sister. Looking honestly at our own sins is painful in the extreme. But in it lies salvation from those sins.

  • Eduardo55

    They are called useful idiots for a reason. Hey Bart, you were useful (and used) and you were (and still are) an idiot. Couple of questions, Bart: 1. How does it feel when you look in the mirror, idiot? and 2. How do you sleep at night?

    • hamiltonr

      Eduardo, I’m allowing this because you’re new here and don’t know better. I don’t allow name-calling on this blog.

  • Faithr

    The whole thing was a debacle. I felt terribly sorry for Stupak too at the time. The pressure was enormous. All that compromising for what? The mess that the ACA is now? I am an agnostic when it comes to the healthcare issue. I do think it is very hard that people go without insurance and good healthcare because they can’t afford it. But I was always nervous at the way the ACA was pushed through in sort of a frantic, aggressive push by very abortion-minded people. I just didn’t want those people with those (lack of) values administering healthcare. I am mad that the Republicans for letting it come to this pass.

  • Theodore Seeber

    “I’ve seen things a lot worse than what I just described, that I don’t want to write about.”

    A blog isn’t the right place- but someday you’ll be out of office, you’ll be done being the primary caregiver for your mother, you may be old and infirm yourself- and at that time, for the good of the country, a book will be in order, even if it only ever gets published as a PDF passed from cell phone to cell phone by Catholics living on the street.

    But there is another option to your conclusion- An America that moves forward with NEITHER of the two major political parties, nor the constitution that has led, in the final analysis, to nothing less than moral chaos.

    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      I subscribe to this and would pay good money for such a book.

  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    The trouble is that not all the people who are called upon to be heroes are heroes.

  • pagansister

    HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY everyone!

  • Manny

    I remember the debate at the time. No one believed the president. I don’t know how Stupek can claim he didn’t. If he really didn’t believe the president then he’s a rather naïve person to have in office. I personally feel Stupek is now lying too.