US Representative Michael E. Capuano, in a significant departure from his forceful arguments a day earlier, said today that he would vote against a final health care bill if it includes a provision restricting federal funding for abortion.
US Representative Michael Capuano
Capuano, who voted for the bill in the House on Saturday, had blasted Senate race rival Martha Coakley on Monday for saying that the abortion provision was so unpalatable it was worth sinking the overall package.
But today the Somerville Democrat said that his vote Saturday was merely to advance the legislation so it could be amended later, not an indication of his final political judgment.
“If the bill comes back the same way as it left the House, I would vote against it,” Capuano said in an interview. “I am a pro-choice person, and I do believe this is [necessary] to provide health care for everyone.”
It is a startling reversal given the language Capuano used Monday to hammer Coakley for saying she opposed the bill over the abortion restrictions, whose inclusion was the product of a deal liberal House members made to win narrow passage of the overall package. He went so far as to call Coakley's comments "manna from heaven" for his campaign, blasting her for not knowing how Washington worked, and for being willing to torpedo a major health care overhaul over this one provision.
Coakley's campaign tried to make the most of Capuano's shift.
“We are heartened to see that Congressman Capuano has reversed his position to follow Martha Coakley’s lead, and no longer will vote for health care legislation that further restricts a woman’s right to choose," her campaign said in a statement. "As Martha Coakley has said, we can and must pass meaningful health care reform with a strong public option without compromising women’s access to reproductive health services. That is the kind of strong, principled leadership that she will bring to the United States Senate."
The exchanges has come on a bizarre day, in which both candidates sought to seize on the health care issue to give their campaigns a jolt. Coakley’s campaign manager sent out a message to supporters titled “A Defining Moment,” articulating her stance on health care and calling for contributions. Later in the day, Capuano’s campaign manager sent out a message titled “Either You Do or You Don’t,” taking Coakley to task again, despite Capuano's acknowledgment that they would likely vote the same way on health care.
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