Stupak backlash: Coakley says she would vote against bill, House Dems vow to kill it

by: Chris Bowers

Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 14:46


The backlash over the Stupak amendment has intensified.  In the Massachusetts Senate race, frontrunner Martha Coakley has declared that she would have voted against the House bill because of the Stupak amendment:

Attorney General Martha Coakley said this morning that she would have voted against the landmark health care bill approved by the House over the weekend because it includes a provision restricting federal funding for providers of abortion services.

Coakley's main opponent, Representative Mike Capuano, is attacking Coakley over this:

Capuano, giddy over a discernible difference with the presumptive front-runner, called Coakley's comment "manna from heaven."

"I find it interesting and amazing and she would have stood alone among all the pro-choice members of Congress, all the members of the Massachusetts delegation," Capuano said in an interview. "She claims she wants to honor Ted Kennedy's legacy on health care. It's pretty clear that a major portion of this was his bill."

"If she's not going to vote for any bill that's not perfect, she wouldn't vote for any bill in history," Capuano added. "She would have voted against Medicare, the civil rights bill. Every advancement this country has made has been based on bills that had flaws in them ... Realism is something you have to deal with in Washington."

Capuano should have stopped after his first paragraph. Extrapolating from Coakley's statement that she would have voted against Medicare or the Civil Rights Act is ridiculous.

Coakley doesn't seem like she is alone, either. Forty-one House Democrats have sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi declaring that they will kill the health care bill if the Stupak amendment is in the conference report:

Dear Madam Speaker:

As members of Congress we believe that women should have access to a full range of reproductive health care. Health care reform must not be misused as an opportunity to restrict women's access to reproductive health services.

The Stupak-Pitts amendment to H.R. 3962, The Affordable Healthcare for America Act, represents an unprecedented and unacceptable restriction on women's ability to access the full range of reproductive health services to which they are lawfully entitled. We will not vote for a conference report that contains language that restricts women's right to choose any further than current law.

While it is unclear who the 41 Democrats who signed this letter are, there is clearly a growing backlash, led by women, against Bart Stupak's regressive block.  Keep in mind that all but one of the Democrats who voted for the Stupak amendment are men--Democratic House women voted 58-1 against it.  A major gender divide seems to be opening up in the House Democratic caucus.

Returning to the Massachusetts Senate race for a moment, Mike Capuano appears tone deaf to this gender divide. 58% of the Massachusetts primary electorate is female, and it is highly unlikely they are going to turn against Martha Coakley for a statement like this.  He is way down in the polls, and needs to seize on something in order to become competitive before the December 8th primary. However, this is unlikely to do the trick, especially given the post-Stupak environment among progressive activists.  While Capuano argues for "realism," Coakley is tapping into the anger.

Chris Bowers :: Stupak backlash: Coakley says she would vote against bill, House Dems vow to kill it

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Any evidence that Coakley might be a strong progressive? (0.00 / 0)
Her record is thin compared to Capuano's generally admirable one, and I'm suspicious of prosecutors in general.  It would be great to have another woman in the Senate, but I want the most progressive Senator we can elect.  This is, after all, MA.  

Does anyone believe that Coakley would be a better choice?  If so, please explain.  I'm definitely leaning Capuano, but am open to persuasion.

Note also that existing polling was done back in September, well before the campaigning was underway.  


I'm wondering too (0.00 / 0)
I know very little about the MA race right now, and what little I know heavily favors Capuano.  I'm gonna try to find out more about this race in the coming weeks.

[ Parent ]
Devil you know vs. devil you don't (4.00 / 1)
Capuano is a relatively reliable vote for liberal causes but, much like Obama, he does not want to really rock the boat.

He sits in just about the safest district in the country (MA-08 is mostly minorities and yuppie liberals and all died in the wool Dems), but has shown signs of being too close to the financial services industry.  He is not a great speaker or a particularly inspiring leader, so I am definitely not sold on any of these candidates for the next MA Senate spot.


[ Parent ]
Yeah (0.00 / 0)
He's a cosponsor of H.R. 676.  Is that for show or would he really push for it when the time comes?

Also, do you know anything good about any of the other candidates?


[ Parent ]
Have we already lost even if Stupak is taken out? (4.00 / 1)
I was just thinking about this... Stupak probably has insurers rubbing their hands together devising yet another way to both reduce their costs (aka coverage) and increase premiums.  How?  Simple, really... Simply strip abortion coverage out of their current plans and say that now you have the option of purchasing a separate abortion "rider".  Since the public plan definitely won't cover abortions, even with Stupak taken out now the private insurers could still strip abortions from the plans in the exchange and offer separate riders (I'd imagine they're still free to do this).

After this happens, it would not surprise me at all if an Anti-Stupak legislation is going to need to pass to prevent this sort of bullshit.  With or without the Stupak amendment now my guess is that there will be a sharp increase in the number of plans that don't include abortion coverage.


That Could Be, But... (4.00 / 1)
I read a different take from another poster who said this is about the only anti-insurance legislation in the bill. His take was that insurance companies are pro-abortion coverage, because it's cheaper to provide abortion coverage than it is to provide maternity coverage.

[ Parent ]
Good. (4.00 / 1)
Send them back to the drawing board, make them start over. They can do better if they really apply themselves.

Montani semper liberi

Well, since nearly everyone was more interested in declaring victory than achieving one... (4.00 / 1)
I shouldn't be especially hard on Mike, whom I signed a nomination paper for.

On the other hand, his statement is asinine and a big disappointment. Gives me pause about whom to vote for in the primary.

Didn't anyone tell Capuano that he's supposed to wait until he's elected to throw women and other historically progressive constituencies under the bus? Talk about your rookie mistakes!

Coakley's got my attention now. I don't know that she's a great progressive, but I'm listening.


I'm not exactly impressed (0.00 / 0)
This seems like a silly place to draw such a hard line.  Where was Coakley when liberals were insisting on some public option, to say nothing of a Medicare +5 one?

At this point what little I know about the candidates heavily favors Capuano (since Coakley seems to have no record on national issues) so I might be biased.  But I'm gonna need to hear a lot more about where Coakley stands on a number of issues (most importantly, Medicare for All, which Capuano has cosponsored) before supporting her.


[ Parent ]
Speaking of silly places to draw a hard line... (0.00 / 0)
All the gnashing of teeth (and concomitant marginalization of single-payer heretics) over "some public option" was a tragic kind of silly.

As was "Medicare +5" when not a single leading progressive would answer the question of how many people would have access to the "public option" if one.

Why wouldn't they answer? Because the answer wasn't flattering. And because they cared more about declaring "victory" and the thrills of insider baseball than the actual policies. So, no, I'm not going to diss Coakley if she didn't hop aboard the "public option" kabuki express.  


[ Parent ]
The PO was an important symbolic/ideological victory (0.00 / 0)
which actually matters to me.

Without a PO, the new health care law would have the government require people to pay their hard-earned money to private, for-profit insurance companies, the same bastards who have literally let people die to make a cheap buck.

By giving people the choice of getting their legally mandated insurance from the government instead, the PO at least offers a modicum of decency to an otherwise absurdly immoral and ridiculous arrangement.

Besides which, the PO at least offers both a political and structural path to Medicare for All, which would make a huge difference.


[ Parent ]
Of course, not marginalizing and abusing single-payer advocates... (4.00 / 1)
... and perhaps crying foul when Obama, Daschle, and Baucus at all lied their asses off about an "open and transparent process" that "considered all options" might have qualified as a political path to Medicare for All, or at least wouldn't have been an obstruction.

"By giving people the choice" leaves out the question of how many people get that choice. Obama bragged that it would be less than 5% of Americans. David Swanson pegs it as 2%.

But the kewl kidz who made "public option" their victory symbol would not engage on that topic. Funny, that.

Naturally, I'm an asshole, as is anyone who's second-guessed the big blogs' lockstep consensus that not just propping up the wafty "public option" but also denying oxygen to single-payer benefits and stories was the unequivocal right thing to do.

Fortunately, the "public option" marketers are "likable enough," and everyone can feel great about trading in the opportunity for real reform and a Democratic Party that stands for something for a goal Glenn Greenwald admits was designed to "placate progressives."


[ Parent ]
I'm not sure what the point of this discussion is (0.00 / 0)
That fighting hard for the PO was a waste of time that diverted attention from other, more critical health care issues?  If so, what were those issues?

And since this was originally supposed to be about Martha Coakley, where was Coakley on those issues?


[ Parent ]
You cast doubt on Coakley because she may not have... (0.00 / 0)
...distinguished herself, as it were, in fighting for "public option":

Where was Coakley when liberals were insisting on some public option, to say nothing of a Medicare +5 one

I'm noting that Public Option was a fake goal that was destructive to real health reform, and that the mad rush to vote for (ultimately/inevitably/obviously) anything the Dems could stick the label "health-care reform" on is precisely what Capuano is selling his soul for in the offending quote.

I'm not at all a student of Coakley's career (I did see her speak at a small-group event and was impressed), and I gravitated toward Capuano because of his reputation as a solid progressive.

The quote here suggests he may be a little too much of the kind of "team player" that's making me care very, very little about how many seats the Dems do or don't get in 2010.

I need to know more before I make a decision, but Capuano did not distinguish himself with these remarks, and your premise -- if there's anything to it -- that Coakley didn't bang the drum for this misspent effort at reform does anything but dissuade me from wondering if she might be the better choice.


[ Parent ]
Okay, I agree that the PO we ended up getting was a disappointment (0.00 / 0)
to say the least, but considering that liberals were expected to roll over and quietly let the PO be taken away to the incinerator to die, that we stood up and demanded some PO and got it, is not a trivial matter.  And it's important for the structural and political reasons I outlined above.

Going back to the MA race, while I don't know enough about Capuano yet to make an endorsement, on health care issues he seems to be much stronger than Coakley.  He's an H.R. 676 cosponsor, and he's been campaigning as the most forcefully liberal candidate.  I don't see how we can extrapolate his vote for the health care bill as a sign that he's a weak-minded, go-along "team player".  I mean it's possible that he is one, but not definite by any means.

Coakley, on the other hand, I've not heard from regarding health care.  I ask, where has she been?  And if she's been asleep this whole time and could only be bothered to speak out over an abortion issue, as I said, I'm not impressed.

I'd appreciate it if anyone had any information about the other two candidates, Steve Pagliuca and Alan Khazei.


[ Parent ]
I know it's unpleasant, but the truth is... (0.00 / 0)
... it's much worse than a trivial matter.

The bloggers and the hip activist groups are too intertwined with Beltway staffers, and they convinced themselves to obsess over the barely shiny object called "public option."

Health reform was taken to the incinerator there and then, and the tribal atmosphere of cheerleading was never going to be a substitute for leadership and a demand for real... what was that word... change.

Capuano is playing party-line loyalist on what most (IMHO) sensible observers consider an atrocious plan. I don't know enough about him, nor Coakley (nor the other two you name), to make an informed decision yet, but his dreadful comments seem pretty clearly to reflect a decision to defend the bill at most any cost. Something he's far from alone in.

And the more Democrats pat themselves on the back for participating in the ritual of rallying around a policy designed to distract progressives from legitimate reform, the further they (I don't say "we" anymore) are from showing any structural or political tendencies one could legitimately feel the slightest optimism about. It's a drag, but -- to coin a phrase -- that's the way it is.


[ Parent ]
actually two women (4.00 / 1)
Marcy Kaptur and Kathy Dahlkemper voted for the Stupak amendment.

Insert shameless blog promotion here.

Chris, thanks for covering the MA Senate race, btw (4.00 / 2)
We definitely need to hear and learn more about the candidates in this race over the course of the month.  I can't emphasize enough how important it is for us to work to elect strong liberals, especially to safe Democratic seats like in MA, if we ever want to have a chance at pushing our country in a progressive direction.

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