If you're looking for a textbook example of the practical politics of compromise versus issue-driven advocacy, you need look no further than the responses to U.S. Representative Bart Stupak's announcement today that he will not seek a 10th term in November.
The Michigan Democrat turned out be perhaps the key vote leading up to the historic passage of the health care overhaul last month. Stupak led a group of anti-abortion Democrats who wrote strict language against federal funding of any abortions into the bill the House originally passed. Those provisions were not in the Senate version before the House last month. In their place, Stupak eventually agreed to accept an accompanying executive order from President Barack Obama.
That drew ire from anti-abortion activists who say the order isn't enough -- and also led to some death threats.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had to win hard-fought compromises with various elements of the Democratic coalition to get health care reform through, was urging Stupak to stay in the fight and seek re-election. She called him "a stalwart advocate for the interests, hopes, and aspirations of his constituents."
"Nowhere did First District voters or the entire nation witness his tenacity and steadfast commitment more than in the successful effort to provide quality, affordable health care to all Americans. Throughout the battle for reform - from his crucial role on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to his leadership on the floor of the House - Bart Stupak was a forceful advocate for providing health care to all Americans," she said in a statement.
But abortion rights groups were already organizing to defeat Stupak and they greeted his announcement with a "good riddance."
"Rep. Stupak needlessly jeopardized the historic health care reform law through his single-minded attempt to take away private insurance coverage for abortion that millions of women have today," Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement.
"Fortunately, Planned Parenthood and its supporters and congressional allies worked tirelessly to keep the Stupak abortion coverage ban out of the final health care reform bill. Voters in Michigan deserve a representative who will put their interests and needs ahead of narrow ideological aims. That's why the Planned Parenthood Action Fund has endorsed Connie Saltonstall for U.S. Representative and will be working hard to elect her to Congress."
Three Republicans are jockeying for the nomination, and the Tea Party Express is involved in the race. So it's entirely possible that Democrats could lose that seat, making Pelosi's job that much tougher next year.