Bart Stupak is either not very smart or he’s not very honest. There really is no other option

Neil Patel Co-Founder and Publisher, The Daily Caller
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Not Very Smart?

If in fact Congressman Stupak really thinks that the Obama abortion executive order changes much from the Senate bill he claimed to oppose, then there is absolutely no choice but to conclude that he’s not the brightest bulb.  To recap, Stupak’s abortion-based opposition to the Senate bill had been unequivocal. On December 19, 2009, Congressman Stupak released a statement on the Senate bill that did not leave any room for misunderstanding:

“While I appreciate the efforts of all the parties involved, especially Senator Ben Nelson, the Senate abortion language is not acceptable… A review of the Senate language indicates a dramatic shift in federal policy that would allow the federal government to subsidize insurance policies with abortion coverage.”

So how did the Senate bill become acceptable to Congressman Stupak over the past day or so, despite it retaining the language he defined as a “dramatic shift” to allow federal abortion funding? According to the Congressman, President Obama’s executive order somehow cured all the defects he had been pointing out in the bill.

During my eight years in government, I spent countless hours sitting around conference tables debating the terms of various executive orders. One argument I never heard was that an executive order can overrule the law. But, if he ever believed his earlier analysis of the Senate bill, then that is essentially what Congressman Stupak agreed to on Sunday. Moreover, when it comes to abortion restrictions through executive orders, I share the recollection of my former colleague Yuval Levin:  “This was a question the Bush administration examined quite extensively on several occasions, and the lawyers involved always agreed that the legal precedents from the time between the Roe decision and passage of the Hyde amendment, as well as some after the Hyde amendment, are extremely clear in stating that federal funds cannot be denied to the provision of abortion except by explicit legislative prohibition.”

Not Very Honest?

The other option for Congressman Stupak is even more distasteful. Maybe he was playing games all along? We have seen that routine before when it comes to congressional Democrats and abortion funding in the Obama health care package.  Remember the principled stand against abortion funding taken by Senator Ben Nelson?  That stand led to the now famous Cornhusker Kickback. After securing his home state pork, it became clear that Senator Nelson was never really standing as much on principle as he was on politics.

Wheeling and dealing is the norm in the political world. It’s how business gets done. But regardless of one’s views on the substance of the issue, when it comes to an issue as fundamental as whether the government should fund abortion, is it really too much to expect our elected representatives to have some conviction? Apparently so. Ben Nelson clearly wasn’t motivated by his views on abortion; it was just the best card he had to play. Now it seems the same may be true of Bart Stupak. We will likely find out in the coming days and months. Maybe Congressman Stupak got himself a deal?

Neil Patel is the publisher of The Daily Caller and was the Chief Policy Adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney for eight years.