As we blogged about, Democrats in the Senate, which they control, fast-tracked a bill that would nullify the Supreme Court’s ruling that Hobby Lobby and other privately-held companies could opt out of the Obamacare contraception mandate by citing their religious objections to abortifacients. The bill would prevent the Religious Freedom Restoration Act from applying in such cases. And since Republicans would probably oppose it, the bill would advance the Democrats’ narrative that Republicans are engaged in a “war against women.” Well, the bill was defeated in the Senate, though House leadership says it may come up again.
Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked Democrats’ effort to undermine the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, ending a round of partisan jousting aimed at capturing women’s votes in the fall.
A bill from Senate Democrats designed to restore employers’ responsibility to provide contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act was defeated 56-43 on a procedural vote. It sought to prevent companies from using a religious-freedom law to avoid complying with a requirement to cover all forms of contraception approved by the government without charging workers a copayment.
The vote to advance the legislation received the support of three Republicans—Sens. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) and Susan Collins (R., Maine)—and nearly the entire Democratic caucus, but came up short of the 60 votes needed. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), who voted against the bill so that he can revive it later, said the Senate would vote again on the issue before year’s end.
Debate over the Democrats’ bill highlighted both parties’ efforts to appeal to women, whose support is expected to be crucial in the midterm elections, when turnout tends to be low. Republicans introduced their own legislation in part to make a political point, reiterating that under current law employers can’t prohibit a woman from accessing contraception.