2017-08-26 / News

Former Congressman Stupak Tells Story of Historic Legistlation

By Jacob A. Ball


Island resident Lorna Straus (left) and former U.S. Congressman Bart Stupak with a copy of his new book, “For All Americans: The Dramatic Story Behind the Stupak Amendment and the Historic Passage of Obamacare,” during a book signing at the Mackinac Island Public Library Tuesday, August 22. Mrs. Straus donated a signed copy of the new book to the library. Island resident Lorna Straus (left) and former U.S. Congressman Bart Stupak with a copy of his new book, “For All Americans: The Dramatic Story Behind the Stupak Amendment and the Historic Passage of Obamacare,” during a book signing at the Mackinac Island Public Library Tuesday, August 22. Mrs. Straus donated a signed copy of the new book to the library. The story about how the Affordable Care Act was passed into law is widely known, or at least that’s what most people think.

Former United States Congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan has his own story to tell about how the landmark legislation succeeded in Congress in his new book, “For All Americans: The Dramatic Story Behind the Stupak Amendment and the Historic Passage of Obamacare.”

Mr. Stupak served as the U.S. representative from Michigan’s 1st District, which includes the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, from 1993 to 2011.

He spoke at the Mackinac Island Public Library Tuesday, August 22, about what he hopes Americans gain from his account of the negotiations and compromises, and also touched on the role of his Catholic faith, his decades-long pursuit of health care access for all, and the current debate surrounding the Affordable Care Act and its future. His talk drew a sizeable crowd.

From the beginning of his service in the U.S. House of Representatives, Mr. Stupak had campaigned for health care reform, but the importance of the sanctity of life in his faith made voting for Obamacare a conundrum.

“Health care has always been a focus and is one of the promises I made when I [originally] ran in 1992,” he said.

The book does not deal with his or any other politician’s crusade for health care, however; it explains, in-depth, the strategic, political, and moral issues surrounding the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The decision to write the book came as Mr. Stupak listened to the narratives of others that, he said, were offbase or just plain false.

“I watched the health care experts try to explain the Affordable Care Act and how [the act] came to be. Every time I’d hear one of those explanations, I’d get mad, sit down, and write a chapter,” he said.

As the Obama Administration was winding down in 2016, his drive to write the book grew.

His biggest role in the health care debate was negotiating an agreement with White House staff to guarantee the Affordable Care Act would not allow for abortion funding. As a leader in Right to Life movement of the Democratic Party, the ex-congressman was unwilling to support any legislation that would have allowed federal funding for abortions.

Without President Obama’s assent to Mr. Stupak’s amendment, the Affordable Care Act would not have passed in its cur- rent form, he says. Mr. Stupak said many Democrats were frustrated by his insistence on the inclusion of this provision in the law.

Pete Pellerito, summer resident, Washington lobbyist, and friend of Mr. Stupak, said the book is written in the context of the push and pull of politics and is not intended to be a partisan defense of the health care law.

During a question and answer session, the audience was interested in his opinion on the current state of Obamacare and Congressional Republican attempts to repeal it. Mr. Stupak said in communities such as Mackinac Island, all citizens now have access to health care and he has been disappointed to see lawmakers undermine the Affordable Care Act at every opportunity.

He said the law clearly needs to be improved, but many facets of the legislation have greatly benefited all Americans. He offered the example that, after Medicare was passed in 1965, it was amended to improve health care coverage within a year and has been updated more than a dozen more times since then. In contrast, Congress has passed no legislation to improve the Affordable Care Act in the seven years since President Obama signed it into law

Mr. Stupak says recent attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare are misguided, but he is encouraged by the increased support for the law since Republican alternatives have been presented.

“President Trump made the Affordable Care Act popular again,” he said.

“For All Americans” is available for purchase from The Island Book Store downtown. Paperback copies are on sale for $20, and hardcover for $35.

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