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Stupak, Working with GOP, Trying to Sink Abortion Compromise

Ben Smith

The emails also demonstrate a previously unseen degree of coordination between Bart Stupak and the office of Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

An aide to Rep. Bart Stupak
(D. Mich.) coordinated opposition to a Senate compromise on the place
of abortion in health care legislation this morning with the Republican
Senate leadership, the Conference
Catholic Bishops, and other anti-abortion groups, according to a
chain of frantic emails obtained this morning by POLITICO.

The emails show that Stupak - who has so far remained silent on language
accepted by Senator Ben
Nelson (D. Neb.) and faces intense pressure from the White House to
accept it - is already working behind the scenes to oppose the

They also demonstrate a previously unseen degree of coordination between
Stupak and the office of Republican leader Mitch

Stupak is the leader of a group of pro-life Democrats who say they'll
oppose the sweeping legislation if it uses government money to pay for
abortion, while McConnell is firmly committed to killing the
legislation. The fact that the two have made common cause against the
Senates health care compromise will likely further infuriate Stupak's
Democratic colleagues in the House, and demonstrates his willingness to
stop any bill that doesn't pass his test.

"Guys - when will we see your letters of opposition to the managers
amendment?? We need them ASAP!" wrote Erika Smith, a Stupak aide, at
9:23 this morning, less than an hour after the amendment had become

The email's recipients included key staffers for the U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops, National Right to Life, the Family Research Council,
as well as Autumn Fredericks Christensen, aide to a top pro-life
Republican Joe Pitts, and Lanier Swann, a McConnell aide.

A minute after Smith sent out her plea, Lanier reiterated it to the


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"Nelson is telling people in the building he will vote yes. If there was
any time to weigh in against this deal -- THIS IS IT," Swann wrote at
9:24 a.m.

As of early Saturday afternoon, the groups had not released statements
on the compromise.

Stupak, too, has remained silent, and Stupak aides, including Smith, did
not immediately respond to questions about the email chain.

The manager's amendment, which emerged after hours of negotiations
between Nelson and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, stops short of the
total ban on health insurance plans that participate in a new exchange
system offering abortion coverage. Instead, it includes a provision that
allows states to prohibit abortion coverage in the exchanges

The amendment also requires that health plans that provide abortion
services separate, for accounting purposes, private premiums and federal
funds, and ensure that the federal funds don't pay for abortion
services, a maneuver derided in the past by anti-abortion groups as a
shell game.

The compromise paved the way for a Senate vote on President Obamas top
priority, but the frantic emails this morning suggest the House may
remain an obstacle.

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