Is the White House Trying to Keep a Congressman Quiet on the Health Care Bill and Taxpayer-Funded Abortion?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 23, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Is the White House putting pressure on a congressman to be quiet? Well, our next guest is a congressman and he says the answer is yes. But he's telling the White House to take a hike because he's talking to you right here, right now. Congressman Bart Stupak got the pro-life Stupak amendment into the House health care bill, and that amendment would ban taxpayer money from funding any health insurance plan that covers abortion. The Senate came up with an abortion compromise, but many in the pro-life movement says it does not go far enough. Congressman Stupak says the White House gave him a not so subtle message. What is that message, and how was it delivered?

Congressman Stupak joins us by phone. Good evening, sir. And tell me, first of all, did they give you the message not to talk?

REP. BART STUPAK, D - MICH. (Via telephone): Well, they asked me not to say anything until they had a chance to walk me through the amendment and wanted -- apparently, they had just reached an agreement. They wanted the vote to go through the other day, so they said, Be just quiet and don't say anything until we get done with this vote and walking you through the amendment. And I gave them a few hours, and I just said, I don't need you to walk me through the amendment. I can read, and this amendment is unacceptable.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And you're talking about the Senator Ben Nelson Senate amendment that is...

STUPAK: Correct.

VAN SUSTEREN: It creates a firewall of funds, is that correct? It's not -- doesn't go as far as the Stupak amendment does in the House.

STUPAK: No, no. The bill's amendment, besides firewall, does a number of things that's a dramatic break from current policy. The Stupak amendment keeps current policy, which says no federal funding for abortion and no federal funding for insurance policies that have abortion as a benefit.

What the Nelson language does, besides the firewall, it, number one, recognize abortion as a benefit in the federal -- as a benefit underneath the federal plan. Number two, it says that at least one plan -- could be nine out of ten plans, but at least one plan must have abortion coverage. Number three, ever enrollee in the exchange (INAUDIBLE) OPM, the Office of Personnel Management, they call it -- would have to pay $1 per month for reproductive rights, which would include abortion coverage. So the Nelson amendment deviates many ways from current law and from the Stupak amendment.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, when the two bills come together in conference, because I assume that the bill's going to be -- is passed tomorrow in the United States Senate so that it will go to the -- be reconciled with the House bill -- there seem to be three options. Either the bill that comes out of the reconciliation will be with the Stupak amendment or with the Senator Ben Nelson compromise or some sort of compromise between the two.

Is there any way you could vote for anything that would be in any way a watered-down Stupak? Do you have any margin to negotiate?

STUPAK: Sure. I've repeatedly mentioned to the White House and leadership and Senate leadership that twice we have voted on language close to Stupak but not quite Stupak in the children's health initiative program this year, in April of this year, when we voted to expand it to 10 million children under the S-CHIP program. The president signed that into law. That had restrictive language on abortion. And then recently, even after the Stupak amendment, we voted on the labor/HHS appropriations bill, which basically has the Stupak language in it, and again, recently signed by the president.

So what I've done in my amendment is (INAUDIBLE) in those two pieces of legislation that all these people who can't vote for the Stupak amendment have voted for and the president has even signed it into law. So there is precedent here. There is legislation we can look at that's already been signed into law. We all voted for it. Let's use that as our reference point and put that in the health care bill. Then we can move off the abortion issue and get the health care issue.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think that Senator Ben Nelson, who has been pro-life, didn't want -- I mean, I know that he tried to -- he tried to introduce the -- or tried to get the language of the Stupak amendment initially into the Senate bill. But then he agreed...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... to this.

STUPAK: Right. Well, why did he agree to this? I think he felt that he was actually making the language that was in the bill, that was originally in the Reid bill -- he thinks, and in a way, he has, because if a state opts out, then they won't have to have this abortion coverage -- in a way, he made the language better. It's better than what was introduced in the Senate. But it's not as good as the Stupak amendment and it's not reflective of current law.

All Stupak amendment (INAUDIBLE) all we're saying is keep the current law. As your last guest, Senator Graham, said, you're expanding the federal role in the health care. He claims 60 percent of them are in a government-sponsored program. He says they'll go to 80. Well, if you're expanding from 60 to 80, why not just keep the current prohibitions in place that have been in place for 33 years, no public funding for abortion, and then let's really argue about health care and have health care pass for the American people.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's your -- looking into the crystal ball, what do you think's going to happen?

STUPAK: Oh, I think we got a long ways to go. Members I've talked to in the last 48, 72 hours are really concerned about some of the provisions in the Senate bill, especially those (INAUDIBLE) you know, some states got special deals and we feel it's unfair. We're here trying to provide a policy which is a health care policy, not a legislation that who gets the best for their state or who gets the best deal for this insurance company in their state. That's not what health care should be all about. (INAUDIBLE) talking about national health care, we should have all Americans covered and we're all in this together and it should be equitable and fair, no matter where you live. The quality of your health care or how much you pay should not depend on where you live.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you, sir.

STUPAK: Thank you.

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