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Rep. Bart Stupakís 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 ó 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 heís called ďthe guardian of the Great Lakes,Ē and what heíll do after leaving the ďbest jobĒ he ever had.
The following is an edited transcript.
On How Heís Preparing to Leave Congress and His Colleagues
Iím not saying goodbye, because Iím sure Iím going to see them, and in some form or fashion, Iím 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 Iím more reaching out to those Members.
On His Decision Not to Seek Re-Election
Even though I was looking to get out as early as 2005, I always stayed on for one more reason, or someone convinced me to run one more time. And the last couple times I ran, I no longer ran because I had to have this job, I ran because other people wanted me to have this job. It wasnít necessarily what I wanted to do.
And that was a struggle for me, though I enjoyed the job immensely. Itís the best job I ever had in the world. I want to do something else. Iím a young guy, and I want to do other things, try other things. Thatís just my curiosity. But I found I was just running for other people, not what I or my family wanted me to do.
On His Immediate Future
One interesting proposal is that ó hopefully, weíll finalize in the next week or two ó is to go up to Harvard and teach at the Kennedy School, the institute of politics, to be a fellow up there. They offered that way back in the summer.
Thatís something that Iíve always wanted to do, Iíd like to do … and Iím honored to be asked to do it.
On What Heíll Miss Most About Serving in Congress