In what looks to be the last addition to the tomorrow's summit guest list, Minority Leader John Boehner has requested that Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan receive an invitation, citing his work on the "critical issue of life" and thus bringing a hugely contentious issue into an already contentious conference. Here’s a snippet from Boehner's letter to the White House:
During the House floor debate on H.R. 3200, I individually questioned each of the Democratic committee chairmen with jurisdiction on health care issues to seek their assurances that the will of the House, as reflected by the support of a bipartisan majority for the Stupak amendment, would be preserved when a final health care bill is crafted by the Democratic majority in Washington. None committed to working to ensure that the House position is preserved in a final health care bill. These same majority committee chairmen will be representing the House in the February 25 summit.
I write today to respectfully ask that you invite Rep. Stupak to participate in the February 25 health care summit so that the will of the American people—and that of a bipartisan majority in the House—on the critical issue of life will be appropriately represented during the discussion.
With Stupak now on the guest list, I'll be watching the dynamic between the Michigan representative and Louise Slaughter, the Democrat from New York, an outspoken critic of the restrictive abortion language. The original read on Slaughter's invite was that it had to do with her criticism of the health-insurance industry. But now that Stupak's in attendance, she could become the de facto liberal spokesperson on abortion. We are, after all, talking about a representative who, back in November, boycotted one meeting where Pelosi even deigned to discuss the Stupak amendment. But at the same time, abortion-rights supporters in Congress have been reticent to go to bat on the issue. So when the abortion issue does come up tomorrow—with Stupak in attendance, I have to imagine it will—will Slaughter be standing up or largely silent? Either way, we'll get an indication of how willing liberals are to fight Stupak's language with the fate of health care reform hanging in the balance.
And, last but not least, I must admit that Boehner has challenged my post for yesterday: he has indeed found a creative way to sort of crash the summit.