Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) will not seek re-election. The 58-year-old former state trooper served in Congress for 18 years, winning 9 terms, but he has come under fire from the right and left since taking a prominent stand during the health reform debate in favor of limiting access to abortion. He is perhaps the first direct Congressional casualty of the debate and also perhaps a surprising one– not a liberal champion of the bill in a swing district but a Democrat who was lionized by the pro-life right.
Last summer he enraged progressives by forcing an amendment on the House version of the health bill, which prevented federal funds from paying for abortions. His profile shot through the roof; he became a household name overnight, drawing fans and enemies and scrutiny in the media– developments that have sent him sailing through the rocky rapids of political celebrity in an era of partisan extremism.
In February, he moved out of the infamous Christian C-Street house he stayed at in D.C. after the media reported the mere $600 rent he paid there and suggested that, in light of his stand on the health bill, the “in kind” gift of rent subsidy provided by the Christian anti-abortion owners of the townhouse raised ethical questions.
Later, the anti-abortion movement turned on him when he flipped his vote and supported health care reform. He did so after pressuring Pres. Obama to sign an executive order that promoted the goals of the Stupak Amendment, which had been tossed.
The conservative Susan B. Anthony List not only rescinded the “Defender of Life” award it had granted Stupak, but also announced plans to spend money trying to unseat him. The Michigan GOP followed suit and launched a campaign to defeat him.
Following that, the Tea Party movement announced Thursday it would spend $250,000 to also battle his reelection.
Although conservatives acted surprised by Stupak’s vote flip, he telegraphed the move in October at a town hall in Cheboygan in which he said:
“I offered an amendment that says no public funding for abortion that’s been the law of the land for many many decades and we lose that vote. Let’s say we lose that vote– we need 218 to win–let’s say we get 217 and we lose. Would I vote against health care? If I had a chance to vote my conscience I probably would not. I probably would still vote for the health care bill at the end of the day.”
The announcement comes as the Tea Party Express plans to rally throughout Stupak’s upper peninsula and northern Michigan district. His challenger on the right had a spot on the Fox News Sean Hannity show Thursday.
Hat tip to Todd Heywood at the Michigan Messenger, sister site to the Colorado Independent.