Adopting the tone of an anxious car salesman, Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Friday yet again pressed pro-life Democrat Bart Stupak on what it would take to get him to vote yes on health care. Over the course of two interviews, Stephanopoulos has offered eight questions designed to figure out what the Representative needs to support the legislation.
Speaking of a brief chat between Stupak and Barack Obama, Stephanopoulos wondered, "Did he say anything to change your mind that could move you from no to yes?" The host later implored, "What more do you need?" At various points, the two seemed to be having separate conversations.
At one point, the former Democratic operative turned journalist hopefully opined, "Congressman, I have to say, this is more openness to working this out than I've seen from you in weeks. What's changing here?" But, Stupak shot back: "Nothing, George. If they had the vote today, I'm still a no vote."
The Congressman also appeared on the March 4 GMA. After telling viewers that Stupak was threatening a "mutiny" against Democrats over health care, Stephanopoulos lobbied, "[HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius] said the President's bill, the President's proposal, does not change the status quo on abortion, does not have federal funding on abortion. Do you agree? And can you vote for it?"
After Stupak, yet again, reiterated his pro-life principles, Stephanopoulos fretted, "So, if the President doesn't change the Senate bill, you can't vote for it?"
On March 18, the ABC anchor tried the same tactic on undecided Congressman Jason Altmire. Over the last few weeks, Stephanopoulos has sounded less like a journalist and more like the media's whip for wavering Democrats.
A transcript of the March 19 segment, which aired at 7:07am EDT, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's bring in Congressman Bart Stupak right now. Congressman, all eyes are on you this morning. I know you met with the President again yesterday. Did he say anything to change your mind that could move you from no to yes?
REP. BART STUPAK: No. George, I met with the President at a bill-signing ceremony. We exchanged pleasantries. Never really met with the President. So, there's still no change. My group is holding firm. We're still no votes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your group is holding firm, you say. But, one of the members of your group, Marcy Kaptur, of Ohio, said one way to solve this may be to have a separate House vote on the language that you had to restrict abortion funding in the bill back in November. She says she's pushing Speaker Pelosi to schedule that vote to affirm the language. Even though, as Jon said, it can't be in reconciliation. Would that solve your problem?
STUPAK: George, that's called an enrollment corrections bill. I presented that to leadership about ten days ago. There's renewed interest in that piece of legislation that I and a number of us are ready to introduce. It's prepared. Everybody's looking at it right now. That's one way, maybe. But, you know, we set the deal with the Senate. So, you give us a vote in the house. We had a vote in the House. It was overwhelmingly 240-194, to keep current law, no funding for abortions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, let me press that a little bit. It sounds like there may be an opening here. You say you've prepared the bill.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You talked to the leaders about it. If they say we will give you that vote, Congressman Stupak, will you vote yes?
STUPAK: Just for giving me the vote? No. No. There has to be more.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What more do you need?
STUPAK: Okay. We passed the bill. It has to go to the Senate. This is the enrollment corrections bill. It has to be passed before the President would sign the Senate bill. So, there's a long ways to go. And, you know, dealing with the Senate has been unusually difficult these last two years. I'm not a lot of confident it's going to go farther than the House of Representatives.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So- So, you need an assurance not only that this bill will pass the House but that the Senate will pass it, as well?
STUPAK: Yes. Yes. Or there has to be a procedure here. We're looking at different options, as you said. As you know, I want to pass health care. I voted for it before. My group- we all voted for it before. We'd like to see health care. But there's a principle we do not want to cross. We want to continue protecting the sanctity of life. And that's where we're- that's where we're trying to hold to. We're holding that principle.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman, I have to say, this is more openness to working this out than I've seen from you in weeks. What's changing here?
STUPAK: Nothing, George. If they had the vote today, I'm still a no vote. I mean- Look, a lot of promises are made around this town. You have to lock them down. And there has been no lock down yet. We're still negotiating. As you say, my group of 12 here, we can make the difference on this vote. But at the same time, there's a principle we're standing up for. So, it's been our position since last June 25 when we wrote the Speaker. Nothing has really changed. We're getting to the end. There's always last-minute negotiations. We're taking part in those negotiations. No deal is struck. Our resolve is the same.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One more time I'm going to press this down: The word of the day is lock down. What is it going to take to lock down your vote?
STUPAK: Look- Protect the sanctity of life. Keep current law. No public funding for abortion. Let's keep that principle intact and you'll probably get our vote.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, Congressman Stupak. Thanks very much.