House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today endorsed US Representative Michael E. Capuano in the US Senate race, saying that he has been a leader in Congress and took a "courageous" vote on health care legislation last weekend.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
The endorsement from Pelosi, the first female House speaker, is a key coup in a race against Martha Coakley, who is seeking to become the first female US senator from Massachusetts.
“Anyone of use could have found one reason or another not to vote for the bill,” Pelosi said. “But that was not any excuse for preventing this historic moment from taking place.”
Capuano and Coakley squabbled earlier this week over whether health care reform should include a provision that limits coverage of abortions. Capuano said he had to vote for a legislation that included the abortion restriction in order to keep health care alive. Coakley and Capuano have both said they would vote against a final package if that amendment is not removed.
Coakley, though, seems to have shifted her comments in recent days. Coakley said definitively on Monday -- first on radio station WTKK-FM, then in an interview with the Globe -- that she would vote against a bill that includes the abortion amendment.
"As the bill stands today, I would not approve this if I were in the Senate," she said in the interview.
But in an interview with NECN that aired last night, Coakley appeared to backtrack.
When political reporter Alison King asked her point blank if she would vote against the bill if the abortion amendment is included, Coakley said, "I'm not going to answer that question. I am not saying, you know, if I'm on the bridge and this is the only choice I have that, you know, I'd say we're not going to be there.”
A spokeswoman for Coakley said that she hadn't changed her position, and that she stands by her earlier comments.
The other candidates in the US Senate race, Alan Khazei and Stephen Pagliuca, have called the positions of Coakley and Capuano alarming, saying the successor to Edward M. Kennedy should vote for the health care overhaul even if it must mean limiting insurance coverage of abortions.
Khazei, though, has also waffled, saying Monday that he would vote for the legislation if the abortion provision were included, and then dodging the question in a TV interview the next day.
During this morning’s endorsement, Pelosi recounted first meeting Capuano in his Washington office years ago, eyeing photos of Somerville’s triple-decker housing.
“I have to admit, it will be my loss when Michael goes to the United States Senate,” she said.
She hailed his opposition on the war in Iraq, his efforts in pushing through ethics reform, and his ability to educate other lawmakers on the merits of stem cell research.
She also said he was "operational, he's not ideological," and his health care vote was an example of that.
The endorsement from Pelosi in some ways was to be expected -- Capuano is an influential member of Pelosi’s leadership team, and is the only congressional member in the race. But it also provides a key boost in a campaign where Coakley has energized women and been endorsed by most of the politically active women in Massachusetts, including Senate President Therese Murray and US Representative Niki Tsongas.
Coakley this afternoon is also being endorsed by two newly elected mayors, Setti Warren of Newton and William Flanagan of Fall River.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com
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