Bishops: Make HHS Mandate a Bargaining Point in Fiscal Cliff Debates

The suggestion is late to the party, but it is about time it finally came.

The Roman Catholic Bishops here in America have finally asked Congressional supporters of religious freedom to do what they should have done in the first place: Make the HHS Mandate a bargaining chip in political “cliff” negotiations.

I’ve maintained all along that if the House Republicans had made the HHS Mandate the bargaining chip in the 2012 cliff fight over extending the debt limit, the HHS Mandate would never have gone into effect. It was one of those rare opportunities when political brinksmanship might have been about something besides the egos of the players and the wishes of the moneyed interests who control them.

What they did instead was engage in their usual fight to get more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

The bishops have finally decided to call for such action directly. They sent a letter to members of Congress, asking them to make the HHS Mandate a bargaining point in the next found of fiscal cliff stand-offs.

All I can say is, it’s about time.

In fact, it’s past time.

It’s not easy for political outsiders to see through the smoke and mirrors of political maneuvering. But it appears that the bishops are beginning to figure it out.

As usual, I support the bishops in this 100%.

A Reuters article describing the bishops’ letter says in part:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Roman Catholic bishops stepped up their battle against President Obama’s contraceptives policy on Friday by urging Congress to use its fiscal debate to free religious employers from a mandate requiring insurance coverage for birth control.

In a letter to all 535 members of Congress, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore suggested two provisions to extend existing federal conscience protections to the contraceptives mandate and strengthen the ability of opponents to seek vindication in federal court.

“The federal government’s respect for believers and people of conscience no longer measures up to the treatment Americans have a right to expect from their elected representatives,” wrote Lori, who chairs the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“I urge you in the strongest terms possible to incorporate the provisions … in the upcoming legislative proposals to fund the federal government,” Lori added.

The conference also plans to send out an action alert via email and text message calling on supporters across the country to visit local congressional offices next week when lawmakers are home on break.

Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide health insurance coverage through group coverage plans for all contraceptives approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including the so-called “morning after” pill.

The archbishop’s letter underscored a growing sense of urgency among church leaders over the birth control coverage rules that are due to take effect on August 1 for religiously affiliated employers including universities, hospitals and charities.

The bishops have tried several times to get Congress to act over the past year, amid numerous protests and more than 40 lawsuits by religious groups and employers. But Lori’s letter marks their first attempt to use the debates over deficit reduction, the debt limit and government funding.

“To many people, this looks like the main must-pass vehicle going through Congress this year,” said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the conference’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. (Read more here.)

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  • JJ

    Disagree, it is a major mistake to use a Constitutional Right as a bargaining chip, in this case Freedom of Religion; Freedom of Conscience. Our rights are unalienable and once our Constitutional rights are placed on the table as part of a “negotiation” they are no longer our God given unalienable rights but mere bargaining chips. We will have lost the very reason for the founding of this nation.

    God Bless

    @ jjblazereader

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      That’s an interesting point.
      I am approaching this from the angle that the HHS Mandate should be rescinded. Thus, I am focusing on the mandate and not the First Amendment. The mandate is not a Constitutional right. It is an agency rule that violates a Constitutional right (the free exercise of religion.) Thus, asking Congress to use its legitimate powers to insist that this mandate be rescinded is not asking them to bargain on a Constitutional right. It is asking them to bargain for the recision of the mandate.

      Thanks for your comment.


      • JJ

        I see where you are coming from but anytime the government infringes on a Constitutional right, that action must be stopped dead in its tracks. It is best if the HHS mandate is stopped because it “violates the Constitution” instead of being withdrawn as part of a “negotiated deal”.
        If it is negotiated away; it can always be re-issued by the government whereas if it is declared unconstitutional it can never be re-issued.

        As always a good discussion with you.
        God Bless.

  • Bill S

    “Roman Catholic bishops stepped up their battle against President Obama’s contraceptives policy on Friday by urging Congress to use its fiscal debate to free religious employers from a mandate requiring insurance coverage for birth control.”

    People in this country will be outraged at the Catholic Church if the Congress does this. The process is to comment on the proposed amendments and see if the comments are acted upon in the final. Deficit reduction and health care are too important to be sabotaged by the Catholic Church.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      You know Bill, I’m getting tired of your constant hate-the-Church drumbeat. Do you have any other arguments to offer besides this?

  • Teresa Rice

    Its about time! But I would expand that and say any person in congress who believes in religious liberty – changing or removing the HHS mandate – shouldn’t negotiate or vote on anything until the HHS mandate’s violations against conscience and religious freedom are addressed adequately. But the GOP and other liberty loving people in congress are spineless. These people need to stand up and be courageous for the sake of the people they represent.

  • Teresa Rice

    You must have a warped view of America if you think that the President is doing “great.” Yeah, he’s doing a great job of dismantling the heart and soul of America, the foundation of America. Our Founding Fathers are probably rolling over in their graves at how citizens could elect another King George III type as President not once but twice.

  • Lawrence R. Rosano

    The January 20, 2012 HHS mandate is unconstitutional under existing case law but all lawyers are too blind for 50 years now to recognize how it is. See In short the HHS mandate is not a “political” issue – as the Bishops presuppose – but is a “constitutional” issue as a matter of law as I have proven in a proposed Letter to the Editor I recently wrote for Culture Wars magazine ["CW"] which you do not have to be a lawyer to understand. In short in order to resolve this HHS mandate issue I created a breakthrough in religious freedom. Reading this proposed CW Leter to the Editor which I’ll send you upon request will shock you as to how the U. S. Supreme Court go away with lyinig for over 50 years now.
    Read how the Bishops twarted my chances to make known my breakthrough in religious freedom to make me a bona fide ONE-MAN SHOW.

  • Bill S

    “You must have a warped view of America if you think that the President is doing “great.””

    His only obvious fault is that he won’t cut spending that will hurt people but he’s going to have to. He won’t let Dolan tell him how to do his job. To me that’s a good thing.

  • P A Riley

    As a Roman Catholic and Sovereign Citizen of the Republic I feel it is a grave mistake on the part of the faith based communities to follow this course of action. First, our federal government MUST remain neutral in its policies as it relates to public policy. Faith is a INDIVIDUAL choice not subject to the religious orientation of the shareholders / owners of any business. What choices an individual employee has with regard to their health care is a PRIVATE matter between the individual and their health care providers.

    Second, the option of contraceptive services under a health care plan does NOT require any participant to access or use these options. The religious communities are WRONG to object to health care plans with these options as a violation of the individual employee RIGHT to chose and decide the practice of their beliefs. I do not think it advisable to start having our Churches in our Government any more than I would want to have our Government in our Churches. For thoes who read the Gospel I refer you to the time the leaders of the Jewish community attempted to have Jesus render a verdict on the paying of taxes. The Lord admonished these religious leaders to observe that their duties to God were separate and not to be put in conflict with their duties to “Caesar”.