Stupak pushes back against claims airport grant bought his vote

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) is denying Republican claims that federal grant money for airports in his district helped convince him to vote for healthcare reform.

Stupak denounced suggestions of links between the grants and his healthcare vote as a smear campaign from Republicans who are “grasping at straws” to discredit Democrats who voted in favor of the bill.


“It is absurd to think I would change my vote for a tow truck and a fence to keep deer from walking onto the runway of an airport in my district,” Stupak said in a statement. “I have long advocated for comprehensive healthcare reform and voted in favor of the House healthcare reform bill — a fact that many opponents of healthcare reform can’t seem to acknowledge.”

The right-wing blogosphere has seized on Stupak’s Friday announcement that three airports in his district received a total of $726,409 grants as the possible reason behind his last-minute "yes" vote.

“Did Stupak compromise his supposed principled stand against taxpayer funding of abortion in exchange for taxpayer dollars for pet projects?” asks one posting on Deal Watch, the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee’s latest blog.

Stupak has found himself under attack from all sides after striking a deal on an executive order on abortion that handed Democrats a victory on healthcare. Stupak, along with eight or nine other Democrats, had been negotiating with the White House for months over abortion language in the bill. He announced Sunday afternoon that he was satisfied with a White House agreement to issue an executive order preventing the healthcare bill from providing public funding for abortions.

The executive order contains language from the Hyde amendment, a provision from a previous version of the healthcare bill that prohibits the federal funding of abortion. Outside groups on both sides of the abortion divide have denounced the deal, with anti-abortion rights groups arguing that executive orders do not have the power to trump statutory law, and abortion rights groups condemning the language they had long opposed.

Stupak has spent the last two days defending the deal, and did so again Tuesday.

“The fact is, the executive order from President Obama coupled with the colloquy stating congressional intent to apply the Hyde provisions to prevent public funding for abortions clearly applies to the new health care reform legislation,” he said in the statement. “When you apply the Hyde provisions protecting the unborn and add to it the fact that 31 million Americans will now have access to healthcare and millions more will not be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions, this is one of the most truly pro-life pieces of legislation in modern times.”

The Airport Improvement Program, which has existed since the early 1980s, awarded grants in 47 states this year. At least six of the districts receiving the funds are represented by Republicans, including Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerAre maskless House members scofflaws? Israel, Democrats and the problem of the Middle East Joe Crowley to register as lobbyist for recording artists MORE (R-Ohio) and Conference Chairman Mike Pence, whose districts received $108,738 and $75,000 respectively.