Almost two weeks after agreeing to work to limit former members of Congress' ability to jump into lobbying once they leave office, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) have agreed to work on another issue: making birth control available over-the-counter.
The unlikely pair, a progressive newcomer and a conservative firebrand, made their agreements public on Twitter, yet again:
Psst! ?? Birth control should be over-the-counter, pass it on.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 7, 2019
I agree. Perhaps, in addition to the legislation we are already working on together to ban Members of Congress from becoming lobbyists, we can team up here as well. A simple, clean bill making birth control available over the counter. Interested? https://t.co/7kh3kqxN1w— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 12, 2019
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) jumped into the mix, letting Cruz know that other members of the House already drafted legislation to make birth control available over-the-counter.
Hi there @tedcruz hit up our girl @pattymurray she and I have already written the bill, album dropping tomorrow ?? @AOC's vocals (& original co sponsorship) = on point. @KatieHill4CA’s an original too. Just call it the Destiny's Child of OTC birth control https://t.co/Ri2q1Viez4— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) June 12, 2019
We've always believed affordable, accessible birth control isn't just a women's issue so look forward to you co-sponsoring, got a few good men on already including @RepBera M.D.— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) June 12, 2019
Although Cruz wants a "simple, clean bill," AOC has a few concerns about partnering with the Texas senator. One of the biggest issues: cost.
Republicans have long said they don't have an issue with making birth control available to women but they don't believe a person's employer, particularly, in religious cases, should be forced to foot the bill. As it currently stands, most birth control is covered under Obamacare.
“I think when we talk about price, that’s the rubbing point with Republicans,” Ocascio-Cortez told McClatchy DC. “If they just want to make a clean, over-the-counter bill but they don’t want to make adjustments for the current methods of affordability, then birth control is going to cost hundreds of dollars a month and it’s going to defeat the purpose and it’s going to make the situation worse.”
Republicans introduced a bill back in 2014 that would make birth control available over-the-counter. They didn't include a provision that required health insurance to cover it though. And that was an issue for Democrats.
Pressley's bill would make birth control available over-the-counter, without a prescription from a doctor, but there would be a requirement for health insurance to pay for it.
McClatchy DC asked Cruz if he supported Pressley's bill or Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)'s companion bill, although he didn't give a straight answer on the issue.
“As I tweeted I support policy of allowing birth control pills to be sold over the counter and I’m happy to work with anybody to get a simple clean bill,” Cruz said.
While this bipartisan effort sounds great on paper, it looks as though it's going to be another issue of "who pays for it?" Democrats will be on one side wanting to force health insurance companies, and essentially employers, to pay for the medication, while Republicans, on the other hand, want the decision to be left up to employers and individual health insurance companies.