Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak, targeted for defeat by Tea Party activists for his crucial role in securing House approval of the health care overhaul, said Friday he would retire from Congress this year.
The nine-term congressman told The Associated Press he could have won re-election and insisted he wasn’t being chased from the race by the Tea Party Express, which is holding rallies this week in his northern Michigan district calling for his ouster. Instead, Stupak said he was tired after 18 years in office and wanted to spend more time with his family.
“The Tea Party did not run me out,” he said in a telephone interview. “If you know me and my personality, I would welcome the challenge.”
Stupak, 58, said he had considered retirement for years but was persuaded to stay in Congress because of the prospect of serving with a Democratic majority and helping win approval of the health care overhaul, which he described as his top legislative priority.
“I’ve fought my whole career for health care and thanks to Barack Obama and my colleagues, we’ve gotten it done,” he said.
A political moderate, Stupak is known for an independent streak that sometimes put him at odds with his party’s leadership. He voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement and an assault weapons ban in the 1990s, despite appeals from then-President Bill Clinton.
During the health care debate, Stupak emerged as spokesman and chief negotiator for Democrats who withheld support from Obama’s plan because they feared it would allow public funding of abortions.
After the president agreed to sign an executive order pledging no federal funding of elective abortions covered by private insurance, Stupak’s bloc cast the votes that provided the legislation’s narrow victory.
Read the whole article here.