Under this administration and this Congress -- which includes the Republican-controlled House of Representatives led by Speaker John Boehner -- the right of Catholics to freely exercise their religion is treated with less deference than the presumed right of stockyard owners to fill the skies with effluvia.
I mean this literally.
When Congress wants to stop the Executive Branch from doing something, it has a simple constitutional means: Deny funding for that activity.
The $914.8 billion spending law Congress passed last week to keep the government funded through the end of fiscal 2012 -- which does not come until Sept. 30 of next year -- is full of provisions that use this mechanism to achieve aims both great and small.
Take, for example, Section 427. It aims to protect businesses that accumulate animal excreta from greenhouse gas regulations that might be issued by the EPA.
"Notwithstanding any other provision of law," says this section, "none of the funds made available in this or any other Act may be used to implement any provision in a rule if that provision requires mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems."
Thanks to this provision, Congressional Quarterly Today reported, "large livestock and poultry operations will remain exempt from any EPA efforts to collect information about greenhouse gas emissions from manure."
What you will not find in the voluminous $914.8 billion spending law is any language that effectively says: None of the funds made available in this or any other Act may be used to implement any rule or regulation under Obamacare that requires health care plans to cover sterilizations and contraceptives, including abortifacients, or that requires any individual, organization, institution, or business to purchase a health care plan that covers sterilizations and contraceptives, including abortifacients.
Such a provision would have stopped the Obama administration from carrying out a regulation -- set to take effect on Aug. 1, 2012 -- that will require all health care plans to cover, without any co-pay, sterilizations and all-FDA approved contraceptives, including those that cause abortions.
The regulation, published in August by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, includes a very narrow exemption for "religious employers" -- but no exemption at all for religious individuals.