Senate Democrats: Why, These Republicans Are Trying to Ban Contraception!

Posted: Mar 01, 2012 8:56 AM

We'll get to the Big Lie in a moment, but first some background.  Republican Sen. Roy Blunt has introduced an amendment that would overrule the Obama administration's unconstitutional contraception mandate, restoring religious protections to the long-standing, pre-Obamacare status quo.  Harry Reid has decided to allow a vote on the measure, which is expected later today:

The Senate will vote Thursday on a conscience clause amendment to release religious organizations from government mandates in health care, Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) said today. The amendment, proposed by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) in response to an Obama administration policy that helps provide contraception coverage for women, is supported by a wide range of Republicans and has become a popular target for Democrats. It also has put more moderate New England Republicans facing re-election, such as Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.) ... in a tough spot.

Kudos to Roll Call reporter Meredith Shiner, who valiantly ignores facts and fully ingests the Left's framing of this debate.  As Ed Morrissey points out, Scott Brown actually doesn't see this vote as a tough call.  Not only has he publicly and adamantly opposed the HHS edict, he is actively campaigning on the issue:

U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.) has launched a radio ad that stresses his support for a conscience exemption to the HHS mandate and argues that the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy would have supported the exemption. The ad campaign began across Massachusetts Feb. 23. “Religious freedom has always been one of our most precious rights. It's what brought the Pilgrims to our shores hundreds of years ago - so they could freely practice their faith,” Sen. Brown says in the ad. “That's why I'm concerned about a new federal mandate forcing religious organizations to offer insurance coverage for practices that go against the teachings of their church.” The ad did not mention specific legislation. However, Brown has backed the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011, sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

Yup, sounds like Scotty's shaking in his boots over this one.  The actual story is on the other side of the aisle, so Roll Call gets the story exactly backwards.  Well played.  Despite Olympia Snowe's shocking decision to retire at the end of this term, Democrats still face a much rockier path in the 2012 Senate elections, as they'll be defending the majority of open seats and vulnerable incumbents.  When the White House first unveiled their decree, multiple elected Democrats voiced their displeasure.  How will "moderate" Democrats like Virginia's Jim Webb, Pennsylvania's Bob Casey, North Dakota's Kent Conrad, Connecticut's Joe Lieberman, Montana's Jon Tester, Missouri's Claire McCaskill, and West Virginia's Joe Manchin vote today?  If all 47 Republicans hold the line (one hopes they can, with the First Amendment at stake), they'll need at least four Democrats to defect.  Outgoing Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska is a co-sponsor of Blunt's measure, so there's one automatic vote.  Will enough of his colleagues join him, or will Senate Democrats block an effort to undo a flagrant violation of Americans' first freedom?  Multiple opinion polls indicate that Americans oppose the federal government's move to force religious employers -- institutions and individuals -- to provide and pay for insurance plans that include "free" services that violate their consciences.  Furthermore, the Supreme Court just recently affirmed religious employers' free exercise rights in a 9-0 decision.  These factors are troublesome for the Left.  And what do you do when your liberty-infringing impulses offend both the American people and the Supreme Court?  You lie hard, with a vengeance.  Here's an anti-Blunt Amendment tweet sent out from the Senate Democrat conference's official account:

@SenateDems - GOP Ban puts personal opinion of employers before the health needs of employees - @SenatorBarb

(1) Nobody -- nobody -- is trying to ban contraceptives.  This is an absolute lie.  (2) Yes, actually, the "personal opinion" (ie, religious beliefs) of all citizens generally are held as paramount and sacrosanct in this country, thanks to our founding document.  (3) Contraception is not a "health need."  If you disagree, feel free to go out and procure some for little to no costNo one will stop you. 

I'll leave you with two items, both courtesy of Heritage.  First, legislative language introduced by Ted Kennedy, the Senate's "liberal lion," for inclusion in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act -- which passed Congress with a grand total of three dissenting votes in 1993.  (The Obama mandate breaches this existing statute as well, in addition to the Constitution):

A health care provider or a health facility shall not be required to provide an item or service under a group health plan or health insurance coverage if the provider or facility objects to doing so on the basis of a religious belief or moral conviction.

The Blunt Amendment includes very similar language, yet has been smeared as "dangerous" by the White House.  Question: Why did Teddy Kennedy dangerously support banning contraception?  Second, here's Sen. Blunt explaining the impetus for his amendment:

UPDATE - I spoke with a senior Republican Senate aide, who gave me a preview of how today's vote will likely unfold: 

"We've been trying to get a vote on the Blunt Amendment for weeks.  Finally, we have a vehicle through which to try -- the highway bill, which is the only legislation that's been on the Senate floor recently," he said.  Earlier in the week, Republicans achieved unanimous consent to move forward with a motion to table the amendment.  Under this scenario, Democrats would need 51 votes to "table" Blunt's provision, effectively killing it.  If they can't marshal a simple majority, the amendment lives on for additional future votes, and possible inclusion in the broader legislation. 

But couldn't Democrats simply filibuster this push at some point, either in the amendment stage, or to block the overall bill?  "Yes, they could do either of those things, or the president could veto it," he said.  So what's the point of this exercise?  "Well, what's the alternative?  This is the only opportunity we've gotten to go on the record about this issue.  It comes down to a question of whether or not we are going to force a debate on this, which is the right thing to do.  We don't control the Senate, so our tactical options are very limited. This isn't just about forcing tough political votes, it's about the issue itself, this outrageous mandate.  Of course we'd prefer to do away with the whole thing -- Obamacare, everything -- but for now, this is what we are able to do to force a spotlight on the violation of religious freedom."

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