Rep. Bart Stupak’s nearly two decades in Congress might have ended with a bang, but for years, his tenure had more of a contented hum.
The nine-term Michigan Democrat was known as a quiet but gregarious colleague, a former Eagle Scout who frequented the House gym and played a mean first base on the Congressional baseball team.
He counts among his biggest accomplishments some decidedly unglamorous victories: providing attentive constituent service and protecting the Great Lakes that define his district.
But during the heated debate over health care legislation earlier this year, Stupak found himself in the unfamiliar glare of the national spotlight. As the sponsor of an amendment to bar federal funds from being used to pay for abortions, Stupak and a handful of Democrats threatened to blow up what was already a tenuous legislative agreement.
Stupak acquiesced after getting an executive order that barred the funding — but not before the spotlight singed him.
He announced his retirement in April, a decision that had been coming for years.
He recently sat down with Roll Call to discuss his frustrations during the health care debate, why he’s called “the guardian of the Great Lakes,” and what he’ll do after leaving the “best job” he ever had.
The following is an edited transcript.
On How He’s Preparing to Leave Congress and His Colleagues
I’m not saying goodbye, because I’m sure I’m going to see them, and in some form or fashion, I’m going to be in Washington. I left on my own volition with what I wanted to do. A lot of them wanted to serve longer and could not. I feel sorry for those Members, so I’m more reaching out to those Members.
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.