The bravest member of the House of Representatives, Democrat Bart Stupak of Michigan, is calling President Barack Obama's bluff on the question of federal funding of abortion in the health care bill.
Like other members, Stupak was sitting in the House chamber on Sept. 9 when Obama delivered a nationally televised address to a joint session of Congress urging passage of the bill.
It was during this speech that Obama said it was false to claim the bill would provide insurance to illegal immigrants and that Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina famously blurted out, "You lie."
What is not famous -- yet -- is what Obama said just seconds after Wilson accused him of lying: "And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up: Under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions."
Shortly after this speech, an incredulous Bart Stupak got Obama on the phone. Stupak, you see, knows as much about the status of abortion funding in the health care bill as anyone. He has proposed an amendment that would prohibit any federal money from paying for any part of any health insurance plan that covers abortion.
In July, Stupak's amendment was narrowly defeated in the Energy and Commerce Committee, the House panel primarily responsible for drafting the bill. The committee instead approved an amendment by Democratic Rep. Lois Capps of California. This amendment actually mandates that at least one insurance plan in each state-based "exchange" -- the only place people receiving federal health-insurance subsidies will be allowed to buy health insurance -- must cover abortions.
On Aug. 21, after Obama gave a radio talk insisting it was "not true" the health care plan would allow federal funding of abortion, FactCheck.org concluded, "Despite what Obama said, the House bill would allow abortions to be covered by a federal plan and by federally subsidized private plans."
Nothing had changed by Sept. 9, when Obama reiterated his claim to the joint session of Congress.
In an interview last week, I read to Stupak the exact words Obama said that night about abortion funding. Stupak told me that when he got Obama on the phone, he had read those very words to Obama himself.
Obama responded to Stupak -- a former police officer -- that when he said these words he was not talking about the actual health care plan developed by the House, he was talking about his own plan -- a plan that has never been written.
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