In a press conference at Northern Michigan University Friday, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) formally announced his decision to not seek re-election.
Stupak has come under increased scrutiny recently as a result of his vote for the Democrats' health care bill last month. The congressman, a staunch opponent of abortion rights, was the main architect of a deal with the White House over an executive order that guarantees that taxpayer dollars will not be used to fund abortions.
Following his vote, he has seen opposition arise from. He also has been on the receiving end of a , including death threats.
Nonetheless, Stupak insisted that his decision was not politically motivated and that he has been mulling retirement for at least the past 6 years.
"But, in each of the past several election cycles, I chose to continue to serve the people of the First District, because I felt we still had work to do," Stupak said.
Stupak also downplayed the role of the threatening phone calls to his office, as the vast majority of callers were from outside of the state. "You just ignore it and move on," he noted.
Now that comprehensive health care reform has been accomplished, Stupak said he believed the time was right to move on.
"When I first ran for Congress in 1992, I campaigned on a pledge to make affordable, quality health care a right, not a privilege, for all Americans. I promised the people of the First District that I would not accept the insurance that Members of Congress receive - the Federal Employees Health Benefit Package - until all Americans could have access to that same quality of care. For the last 18 years, I have kept that promise," said Stupak.
"After 18 years, together we have accomplished what you sent me to Washington to do," he added.
Stupak also admitted that the Democratic majority in both houses of Congress and the presence of President Obama in the White House weighed in on his decision. Hitting back at critics who believe his retirement effectively hands the seat to a Republican, Stupak noted: "I think we've tilted this district."
"I've seen the Republican candidates and I'm not impressed," he added, noting that he was excited about a number of Democratic prospects in his district.
"I'm at peace with the decision I've made," declared Stupak. Throughout the press conference, a clearly emotional Stupak consistently emphasized his connections with constituents and his commitment to serving the people of his district, in whatever form that may take.
"We've helped people obtain passports, secure local mail delivery service, and obtain funding to weatherize their homes in order to save money on their monthly bills," Stupak said. "These may seem like little things, but to me and my dedicated staff they are the most important things."