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December 19, 2009

Stupak aide schemed with McConnell staffers over health bill

I hate to say it, but Politico wins the afternoon: One of Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI)'s aides was caught conniving with Sen. Mitch McConnell's staff and other top anti-choicers over abortion funding in the Senate health reform bill...

An aide to Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) coordinated opposition to the Senate health bill’s abortion compromise this morning with the Republican Senate leadership, according to a chain of frantic emails obtained this morning by POLITICO.

Stupak, in an interview with POLITICO, called the Senate bill’s abortion position "unacceptable" – but disavowed his staffer’s collaboration with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“I never talked to McConnell about the health care bill,” said Stupak, adding that “I did not authorize the email [which] “was sent without my knowledge.” 


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

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 top pro-life Republican Chris Smith, and Lanier Swann, a McConnell aide.

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

“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.

The frenzied correspondence began when the anti-choicers realized that Ben Nelson might supply the critical 60th vote to defeat a GOP filibuster and put the Senate health bill on the road to passage. Part of the price of Nelson's vote would be to tighten restrictions on abortion funding under health reform, though not as severely as the notorious Stupak amendment to the House bill.

Stupak claims he didn't know what the aide was doing. I don't believe that a congressman's aide would enter into dialog with the Senate Minority Leader of the opposing party on the President's signature piece of domestic policy without a nod from her boss. McConnell is, of course, determined to kill the bill at any cost.

If Stupak doesn't fire this aide today, I'll assume he knew and approved of what she was doing. Allegedly, Stupak opposes abortion funding because he's such a devout Catholic. Well, Bart, the Bible has a lot more to say about lying than it does about abortion. 


The bible has a lot more to say about wearing mixed-fiber clothing than it does about abortion. Somehow, we've managed to make our peace with poly-cotton blends, and for those who choose to wear them, it is a personal choice.

Jesus Christ Himself doesn't seem to have gone on record about abortion, but He seems to have taken a pretty dim view of divorce.

The Catholic Church, as per Dei Verbum, is open in thinking that the Bible is no more important than the Catholic Church's own dogmas and traditions. A lot of the right-wing Protestant opposition to abortion -- rooted neither in the Bible, nor in a more general "veneration of life" viewpoint which opposes war, capital punishment and the like in addition to abortion, nor, obviously, in adherence to the Pope's views -- is more suspicious (which is not to say any worse in general).

I guess zealous opposition to abortion is more tenable for Stupak than zealous opposition to lying: Stupak needs to lie sometimes, but he'll never need an abortion.

That the "chain of frantic emails" was " POLITICO" would indicate that at least one other aide of Rep. Stupak's is as revolted by the intrigue as we should be.

dr2chase, the prohibition against sha'atnez is addressed only to Jews, and applies only to garments that mingle wool and linen; cotton and synthetics fall outside its purview.

Dabodius, most of the Bible's prohibitions are addressed only to Jews.

I would agree that an aide wouldn't be making such correspondence without her boss's say so if I thought that individual members of the US congress had any degree of savvy in running their offices. I'm not convinced of that.

It's called fan service. :)


I've heard that about it only applying to wool and linen, but at least in the translation (of the translation, of the translation...) that I read, it did not specifically mention wool and linen as the fibers in question. Any restriction of the literal meaning of the words, is probably dangerous liberal revisionism :-).

The holy Bible does condone abortions as a test of fidelity. Your priest or pastor is the person who is required to perform this service.

Our fundamentalists Christians only see Jews as tool for bringing about the Apocalypse, so they can get started with their thousand years of being pampered and serviced by Jesus.

Alon, boychik, I always knew there was a talmid chacham in there!

Indeed, the sages found in the Torah 365 ("one for each day of the [solar] year") prohibitions addressed to Jews, but only six addressed to all humanity: against bloodshed, theft, adultery, idolatry, blasphemy, and cruelty to animals. Most of them are unfortunately difficult to tease out of Genesis 2 and 9 without the rabbis' ingenuity.

Non-Jews are sometimes annoyed by the bizarrerie or meaninglessness or triviality, as they see it, of prohibitions like sha'atnez; that view is understandable, but my point was that they need not be annoyed by them.

dr2chase, you were probably looking at the first occurrence of the prohibition, in Leviticus 19:19. The second, in Deuteronomy 12:11, specifies sha'atnez as a mingling of linen and wool.

But I take seriously your quip about "liberal revisionism." It's impossible to read any text without bringing traditions of interpretation to bear (right now, for example, you are reading this as an English sentence, a comment on a blog, a reply etc., with a set of learned expectations and skills that are no less at work for being most of the time transparent.) It's the same with scriptures, as the rabbis, the partisans of the "Oral Torah" that enabled their readings of the Written, appreciated.

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