There has been a lot of discussion lately in the blogosphere and op-ed columns about what how and why the Stupak amendment passed the House. One of the themes getting a lot of play here in DC is that we were put on the path to Stupak when “the Democrats” decided after the 2004 elections to aggressively recruit and support anti-choice candidates for Congress.
The facts simply don’t support this. Of the 64 Democrats who supported the Stupak amendment, only 14 were first elected in 2006 and 2008. Of the remaining 50, many have been in office for decades. In fact, the Democratic House classes elected in both 2006 and 2008 are more pro-choice than the House Democratic Caucus as a whole.
The fact is that there have always been anti-choice Democrats in Congress. In the past, though, that was largely balanced by pro-choice Republicans. Today, the balance is gone. The number of pro-choice Republicans can be, at best, counted on one hand. That makes the anti-choice Democrats far more noticeable and, arguably, important. The pro-choice Republicans have largely been replaced by pro-choice Democrats (in New England, for example). Some, of course, have been replaced by anti-choice Republicans (i.e. Dave Reichert for Jennifer Dunn in Washington and Erik Paulsen succeeding Jim Ramstad in Minnesota).
That said, I can’t remember a time when the House – or the Senate – had a true pro-choice majority. It’s undeniable, though, that it’s better now than it has been in the past – but it’s still clearly short of where we need to be.
It’s easy to get frustrated and lash out at allies when something like this happens, but it’s counterproductive. To paraphrase Barney Frank, one of the smartest members of Congress, if what you’re doing makes yourself feel better, it’s probably completely ineffective. We need to focus on making sure the Senate votes down the Stupak amendment, not looking for people to blame for the House passing it.