By Frank James
Rep. Bart Stupak, the anti-abortion Democrat angered many who share that view when he voted for the new health care law, made it official Friday that he would not run for re-election.
Taking at face value what he said in a public appearance in his Upper Peninsula, Michigan congressional district, Stupak was motivated by several factors. A major one: the six-term congressman had accomplished what was his main goal during his House career -- the passage of health care reform.
He also sounded like a man who had truly grown weary of a member of Congress' life, with the weekly flights back and forth to his home district.
Also, he said he was committed to keeping his seat in Democratic hands and by leaving now he would give any Democrat seeking to replace him enough time to raise the money and staff they'll need to compete effectively for the seat.
Only once did his comments betray the great pressure he came under during the recent fight to pass the health care law both during the time he threatened to withhold his yes vote and after he relented. "I've enjoyed almost every minute." he said.
Here are some key parts of his statement:
After 18 years, together we've accomplished what you sent me to Washington to do: health care for all Americans.
My friends and family know that during the last several election cycles, when it seemed like health-care reform was impossible in Washington, I considered retiring from Congress.
I wished to spend more time with my family and begin a new chapter in my career. But in each of the past several election cycles, I chose to continue to serve the people of the First District, because I felt we still had work to do...
... But two years ago, I saw an opportunity to finally enact health care, with the election of a new president. I thank President Obama and Speaker Pelosi for their leadership, to put us across the line, as we finally have health care a reality in this country.
... Last night and early this morning, I informed Democratic leaders and key supporters that I would not seek reelection to Congress. I will always serve the people of the First District, but I've chosen not to continue to serve as their congressman. I'm committed to helping the Democrats retain this seat; as I believe we must continue to fight for our working families and small businesses, for our economic and national security, for our Great Lakes and for our quality of life. By announcing my intentions here today, potential candidates will have ample opportunity to organize campaigns and collect the necessary signatures before the May 11th filing deadline.
... REPORTER: Congressman Stupak, what was the tipping point? What was the final moment that you said, "I'm done"?
REP. STUPAK: That really came the last 36 hours. As I said, I've struggled with this decision. I wanted to leave a couple times, but always thought there was one more job to be done. Health care was always a major issue. In fact, some of my friends over here will remember this little pamphlet. It's one of my first election things:
"Health-care reform right now. I believe every American has a right to health care." We did it; might have taken us 18 years.
I felt that main mission, my main goal -- legislative goal was accomplished. I have been doing this for 30-some years in public service. I'm young enough, I'm at the crossroads in my life, where I can do other things. I look forward to those new challenges.
So it wasn't one thing. It was a number of things. You've been in the district a little bit -- about 20 percent of my district, understand. So you can imagine, when I come home, my biggest regret now -- maybe it was exciting 16, 14 years ago, but now I come home, I see Laurie for 12 hours, I jump in the car, I'm gone. A different motel room every night, a different airport I fly out of.