First Vote on S 2578 is In. They Didn’t Stop a Filibuster.

The first vote on S 2578, the bill to overturn the Hobby Lobby decision by repealing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, is in.

It was a vote on cloture. Cloture is a vote to stop a filibuster on a measure, or, as in this case, whether or not to debate a bill. It came within 4 votes of passing, which would have meant that the bill would almost certainly have passed the Senate. As it is, a filibuster can tie it up and keep it from going to the House, and no debate keeps it from coming to a vote at all.

The final vote was 56-43.

I’m going to put the vote below. It is a bit confusing, since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voted “no” on the vote to stop a filibuster. That was one of those pesky procedural votes. A procedural vote means that he voted the way he did to achieve a goal within the Senate procedures, in this case to position himself to call the vote on cloture up again.

What that means is that there may be another vote on cloture.

With the exception of Senator Reid, a “no” vote below means that the Senator voted against S 2578. A “yes” vote means they voted for it.

Unless I am mistaken, it was basically a party-line vote, with Independent Senators Sanders of Vermont and King of Maine and Republicans Murkowski of Alaska, Kirk of Illinois and Collins of Maine voting with the Democrats. The opinion voiced by Senate Republicans is that the Senate Democrats see this move as a vote getter for the party in November.

I have no doubt that is the big reason why you see all the Ds lining up on this. I could probably tell you the exact things which were said behind closed doors about this particular vote. I’ll bet I could recite it almost word for word.

A number of senators who voted for this attack on religious freedom come from conservative states where traditional Christians comprise a sizable voting block. They are evidently counting on party financing and the media machine to lie for them so that the public will be so mis-informed about the Hobby Lobby decision that they can ride this vote to victory rather than the ignominious defeat it should garner for them.

Other senators, such as Senator Mary Landrieu, who comes from Louisiana, is up for re-election, and was elected on a pro-life plank, may face some choppy water because of this vote. I would guess that she can get away with it if she can convince the voters that it was a vote about birth control and not religious liberty.

The other factor — and it is enormous — is how the voters of Louisiana feel about her personally. If they like her and trust her, individual votes she cast won’t matter.

Here is the vote.

Grouped by Home State

Alabama:Sessions (R-AL), NayShelby (R-AL), Nay
Alaska:Begich (D-AK), YeaMurkowski (R-AK), Yea
Arizona:Flake (R-AZ), NayMcCain (R-AZ), Nay
Arkansas:Boozman (R-AR), NayPryor (D-AR), Yea
California:Boxer (D-CA), YeaFeinstein (D-CA), Yea
Colorado:Bennet (D-CO), YeaUdall (D-CO), Yea
Connecticut:Blumenthal (D-CT), YeaMurphy (D-CT), Yea
Delaware:Carper (D-DE), YeaCoons (D-DE), Yea
Florida:Nelson (D-FL), YeaRubio (R-FL), Nay
Georgia:Chambliss (R-GA), NayIsakson (R-GA), Nay
Hawaii:Hirono (D-HI), YeaSchatz (D-HI), Not Voting
Idaho:Crapo (R-ID), NayRisch (R-ID), Nay
Illinois:Durbin (D-IL), YeaKirk (R-IL), Yea
Indiana:Coats (R-IN), NayDonnelly (D-IN), Yea
Iowa:Grassley (R-IA), NayHarkin (D-IA), Yea
Kansas:Moran (R-KS), NayRoberts (R-KS), Nay
Kentucky:McConnell (R-KY), NayPaul (R-KY), Nay
Louisiana:Landrieu (D-LA), YeaVitter (R-LA), Nay
Maine:Collins (R-ME), YeaKing (I-ME), Yea
Maryland:Cardin (D-MD), YeaMikulski (D-MD), Yea
Massachusetts:Markey (D-MA), YeaWarren (D-MA), Yea
Michigan:Levin (D-MI), YeaStabenow (D-MI), Yea
Minnesota:Franken (D-MN), YeaKlobuchar (D-MN), Yea
Mississippi:Cochran (R-MS), NayWicker (R-MS), Nay
Missouri:Blunt (R-MO), NayMcCaskill (D-MO), Yea
Montana:Tester (D-MT), YeaWalsh (D-MT), Yea
Nebraska:Fischer (R-NE), NayJohanns (R-NE), Nay
Nevada:Heller (R-NV), NayReid (D-NV), Nay
New Hampshire:Ayotte (R-NH), NayShaheen (D-NH), Yea
New Jersey:Booker (D-NJ), YeaMenendez (D-NJ), Yea
New Mexico:Heinrich (D-NM), YeaUdall (D-NM), Yea
New York:Gillibrand (D-NY), YeaSchumer (D-NY), Yea
North Carolina:Burr (R-NC), NayHagan (D-NC), Yea
North Dakota:Heitkamp (D-ND), YeaHoeven (R-ND), Nay
Ohio:Brown (D-OH), YeaPortman (R-OH), Nay
Oklahoma:Coburn (R-OK), NayInhofe (R-OK), Nay
Oregon:Merkley (D-OR), YeaWyden (D-OR), Yea
Pennsylvania:Casey (D-PA), YeaToomey (R-PA), Nay
Rhode Island:Reed (D-RI), YeaWhitehouse (D-RI), Yea
South Carolina:Graham (R-SC), NayScott (R-SC), Nay
South Dakota:Johnson (D-SD), YeaThune (R-SD), Nay
Tennessee:Alexander (R-TN), NayCorker (R-TN), Nay
Texas:Cornyn (R-TX), NayCruz (R-TX), Nay
Utah:Hatch (R-UT), NayLee (R-UT), Nay
Vermont:Leahy (D-VT), YeaSanders (I-VT), Yea
Virginia:Kaine (D-VA), YeaWarner (D-VA), Yea
Washington:Cantwell (D-WA), YeaMurray (D-WA), Yea
West Virginia:Manchin (D-WV), YeaRockefeller (D-WV), Yea
Wisconsin:Baldwin (D-WI), YeaJohnson (R-WI), Nay
Wyoming:Barrasso (R-WY), NayEnzi (R-WY), Nay

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Supremes Dump Oklahoma Court Case and I Am Bummed About It

 

There are times when I get up and walk off the House floor.

I go to my office and tell my secretary not to let anyone in. Or, I will go wandering around the rotunda.

But I get away from the mike on my desk and its ever-beckoning invitation to let fly and say whatever I want.

Because what I would want to say in that heated moment is not what I would want to say later, after the dust has settled and I’ve found my inner sane.

I am in a similar situation now, which is why I am not going to weigh in on the only bit of news today that has anything directly to do with me. Because I know that what I would say now is not what I would want to have said later.

Sometimes, it’s better to just keep your mouth shut.

The Supreme Court of the United States has decided not to hear a case based on an Oklahoma law concerning the prescribing of drugs used in chemical abortions. I co-authored an amicus curiae brief in favor of this law, along with my friend House Majority Leader Pam Peterson. That’s why I’ve been mum on this case up until now.

I will talk about it more. Later.

For now, here are a few facts (which I will have some thoughts about in the future) from the Washington Post:

The Supreme Court left in place Monday a decision by Oklahoma’s highest court that a major provision of that state’s new abortion law is unconstitutional because it effectively bans all medication abortions.

The high court last summer had tentively agreed to consider the issue but asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court for clarification on exactly what the law proscribes. The Oklahoma court issued an opinion last week that the law would effectively end the early-term practice of medication-induced abortions, and was thus unconstitutional.

Upon receiving the Oklahoma opinion, the Supreme Court then announced Monday that it will not schedule the case for briefing and consideration. As is customary, the justices gave no reason for deciding not to hear the case.

It is clear, however, that there are other ways for the issue to reach the Supreme Court. A number of states have passed similar restrictions on medication abortions, and the issue is working its way through the courts.

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Christians’ Dual Citizenship and Engaging the Culture for Christ

In the video below, Cardinal Wuerl discusses what he calls the “subtle” loss of religious liberty in America.

From my viewpoint, the loss of religious liberty is only subtle to those who do not want to see what is happening. In truth, it has been snowballing for quite a while.

The sign of hope is that for the first time, there is real pushback. I’m not talking about angry speechifying and partisan political demagoguery, but actual pushback in the form of court cases, marches and a public engagement in favor of religious liberty by whole groups of people who heretofore opted out of the battle.

The HHS Mandate was a watershed moment in American history in this regard. By attempting to force the Church itself to violate its own teachings in a federalized, all-fifty-states manner, the Mandate forced the war upon religious leaders who had been committed to a policy of negotiation and compromise. The Mandate pushed things past compromise and into choosing this day whom you would serve.

The administration has since backed off parts of the mandate, but the essential core of its position on religious liberty: That the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion pertains only to churches and direct church institutions, has not budged. The question that this forces on thinking people is whether or not they will support our Constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion without government interference or not.

Far too often, people allow their partisan political loyalties to make their decision in this matter for them. This is such a strong trend that I am fairly certain that if the party who was being criticized for attacking religious liberty changed from, as it is in this case, the Ds, to the (as it has been and will be again in other cases, the Rs) many people would switch their positions on the issues to follow their party.

I do not know how to get people to stop looking at the world through partisan-tinted glasses. But I know that this is essential — essential — if you want to be effective for Christ in our country’s political discussions.

One way that America is unique is that every citizen is a de facto politician. No American citizen is exempt from responsibility for the directions our government takes. Because of the great freedoms and the many powerful options to seek redress against our government that every American citizen possesses, we are all called to have opinions and engage the political world for change, at least on some level.

Our government and both political parties have become corrupted by the control of special interests and overweening government bureaucracies. I don’t know how else to say it. We, as American citizens, have a responsibility to stand back from that corruption and think for ourselves. As Christians we have an eternal responsibility to put the Gospels first in our considerations.

American Christians are citizens of two kingdoms simultaneously. We are American citizens and we are also citizens of the Kingdom of God. One of the great things about America is that is has not, up until very recently, required its citizens to chose between these two kingdoms.

America has always honored the demands of conscience of its individual citizens. Those whose faith demands it are not required to fight in our wars and no one challenges their patriotism. We have never forced anyone to undergo a religious test to hold public office in this nation.

But now, there are groups which seek to push their ideas on other people to the point of abrogating their right of personal conscience. Rather than follow the time-honored American tradition of allowing those whose faith compels them to forego certain activities to do so, they are using the law and courts to force religious people to participate in everything from abortions to gay marriages. They base this on nebulous claims to their “right” to these activities which, they say, trumps the rights of other citizens not to participate in them.

The HHS Mandate is a sinister, tyrannical abuse of government power that attempts to shear the First Amendment loose from its time-honored moorings in the rights of individual American citizens to act and live according to their faith without government penalties, intervention or discrimination. It thrusts the United States government into areas where it has never gone before and into which it should not go now.

Other laws, such as those Cardinal Wuerl mentions in this video, have been bubbling up all over the country, which, at least in their local applications, set aside First Amendment guarantees of religious liberty almost entirely in favor of other new goals of government meddling in American’s private lives and religious institutions in order to force private citizens to participate in culture war objectives such as abortion and gay marriage against their will.

I am aware that a good number of the readers of this blog comfort themselves with the fiction that all they have to do to support religious liberty is to vote Republican. I am also aware of the fact that most people don’t have my experience dealing with these issues from inside government and seeing first hand what a shallow and ultimately bogus hope that is.

I can only tell you that I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears, not once but many times, how completely craven both political parties truly are in these matters. I am not saying that many of the people in the Republican party are not wonderful, committed Christians. I am saying that when push comes to shove, they allow their party to tell them to back off, back down and shut up about everything from pro life to religious liberty. I have seen it happen.

In this respect, they aren’t all that different from the Democrats. There are devout Christians in the Democratic Party, as well. But they can’t withstand the pressure from their party.

The big difference is that Democratic party structure itself has become overtly hostile to traditional Christian morality as it applies to human sexuality, while the Republican party gives a lot of lip service to supporting it. The Rs do not attack Christian morality concerning human sexuality with legislation designed to undermine it. The Ds will and do.

But the Rs (again, I refer to the party structure, not individual Republicans) only take stands with words, or when they see a political advantage. In fact, in many instances, (I’m specifically thinking about the HHS Mandate here) the Rs take stands only with words and do not use their clout in Congress to effect change.

The point I am making, is that if you are a Republican, you should not stand for this. You need to stop buying the manipulative nonsense your party is pushing and demand they go at the HHS Mandate by making it a sticking point in their negotiations on budget issues or wherever else they can gain traction. People get what they want. If the Republicans wanted to stop this mandate rather than just use it for campaigning purposes, they could make a big difference.

On the other hand, Democrats like me are so isolated and besieged within our parties that only the most determined of us can stay the course at all. It is impossible to describe to someone on the outside the kind of pressures that Democratic lawmakers are under to compromise matters of faith concerning issues such as abortion, marriage and religious freedom.

If you are a Democrat, you need to step up to the plate and demand that your party stop attacking the pro-life, pro-religious freedom lawmakers in their midst. You also need to consider running for party offices, beginning at the precinct level, to replace some of these nuts who are running our party and get the thing back on track.

Americans do not have the luxury of sitting around and saying “what can you do?”

The truth is, any American, all Americans, can do a lot.

My father was a mechanic with an 8th grade education. I went to the worst schools in the poor part of town. I am a woman, from an era when women didn’t have the options we have today. And I have spent 18 years in elective office.

Why? Because I am an American citizen and I have Constitutionally guaranteed right to engage the larger culture about the things I believe.

The rest of you should try it. Politics can be both honorable and holy work. All you have to do is put Jesus first and let the chips fall.

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Representative Diane Black Introduces the Health Care Conscience Protection Act

Representative Diane Black (R-TN), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and John Fleming, MD (R-LA) announced that they will introduce the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (HCCRA.)

It is bill number HR 940.

According to Rep Black’s website, HR 940, “offers reprieve from ongoing violations of our First Amendment, including full exemption from the Obama Administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate and conscience protection for individuals and health care entities that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer patients to abortion providers because of their deeply-held, reasoned beliefs. HCCRA has 50 original co-sponsors.”

Representative Black allowed individuals who have been harmed by the government’s attacks on freedom of religion to speak at the press conference announcing this bill. They were:

Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo, RN – New York State nurse who filed suit after her freedom to serve patients according to her conscience was violated. For more information, click here.

·         Susan Elliott, PhD, Director and Professor at Biola University Nursing Department. For more information, click here.

·         Christine Ketterhagen, Co-Owner/Board Member of Hercules Industries, Inc.; Andy Newland, President of Hercules Industries; Bill Newland, Chairman of the Board of Hercules Industries. For more information, click here

·         Sister Jane Marie Klein, OSF, Chairperson of the Board of Franciscan Alliance, Inc. (in Mishawaka, IN). Franciscan Alliance is a co-plaintiff with the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

Representative Black’s website included the following provisions in the Health Care Conscience Act:

HHS Mandate:

Under the health care coverage mandate issued on August 3, 2011, widely known as the HHS mandate, organizations and their managers are now facing potentially ruinous financial penalties for exercising their First Amendment rights, as protected by law. Hobby Lobby, a family business that was denied injunctive relief from the mandate and faces fines of up to $1.3 million dollars a day, unless its owners agree to fund potentially abortion-inducing drugs. If Hobby Lobby is forced to close its doors, some 25,000 jobs nationwide may disappear. The Obama Administration’s HHS mandate exemption only includes houses of worship and does not account for the thousands of religious and non-religious affiliated employers that find it a moral hazard to cover sterilization, contraception and potentially abortion-inducing drugs on their employer-based health insurance. Ultimately, the so-called “accommodation” does not protect anyone’s religious rights, because all companies and organizations will still be forced to provide insurance coverage that includes services which conflict with their religious convictions. The HCCRA would address this violation of our First Amendment rights by providing a full exemption for all those whose religious beliefs run counter to the Administration’s HHS mandate.

Abortion Non-Discrimination:

The HCCRA also protects institutions and individuals from forced or coerced participation in abortion.  In recent years there have been several examples of nurses being told they must participate in abortions. There have also been efforts to require Catholic Hospitals to do abortions, and a Catholic social service provider was denied a grant to assist victims of human trafficking on the basis of their pro-life convictions.  The HCCRA codifies and clarifies the appropriations provision known as the Hyde‐Weldon conscience clause. This is accomplished by adding the protections for health care entities that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer for abortion to the section of the Public Health Service Act known as the Coats Amendment. It also adds the option of judicial recourse for victims whose rights have been violated under the HCCRA, Coats, or the conscience clauses known as the Church amendments.

You can call your Congresspeople at 202-224-3121. Or you can find their email addresses here

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Have You Shopped at Hobby Lobby This Month?

I headed to Hobby Lobby as soon as I deposited my paycheck last week. 

I don’t buy big, but I try to buy something every month. It’s the least I can do to support them in their fight for my freedom and yours. 

Hobby Lobby is still embroiled in a bitter court battle with the Obama administration over the HHS Mandate. Owner David Green has said that the company will pay the huge fines the government plans to assess rather than pay for health insurance coverage for abortifacients. Hobby Lobby already pays for birth control coverage for employees who receive health insurance, so that is not the issue.

The real question is whether or not the government can confine First Amendment freedoms to religious institutions, or if those freedoms belong to every American. 

In my opinion, the government position in this is a legalized version of what I was once told about my job as a legislator: You can go to church all you want, but leave it there. The HHS Mandate is an attempt to enforce that outrageous demand by law and to punish those who refuse to adhere to it with crippling fines and penalties.

If this position is allowed to stand, I do not think it will be all that long before similar penalties are imposed on individual people like you and me, and not just Christian businesses.

The thrust of militant secularism is to push people of faith and religious ideas out of the public sphere and into an intellectual and social ghetto. This ghettoizing of people of faith, particularly Christians, is moving along at a fast pace in our Western society. The idea that the government would do something as egregious as the HHS Mandate was something everyone thought was a ridiculous impossibility just a few years ago.

Now, we have most of the press and large swaths of the population, including “progressive” Christian Churches, supporting what amounts to an outright government attack on religious freedom. What was unthinkable a few years ago has come to pass.

It is being pushed on us with lies, distortions and obfuscations from genuine true-believer militant secularists, and those kool-aid drinking Christians who have deluded themselves into thinking that the time when this same sword will be used on them will never come. These sad folks are joining with those who attack their own house and are trying to draw the rest of us into that delusion along with them.

I thank God for people like the owner of Hobby Lobby who are willing to stand for Christ, no matter what the cost.

The Baptist Press recently published an interview with members of the Green family. It says in part:

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP) — Hobby Lobby has been pushed to the front lines of a monumental battle over religious liberty just when the arts and crafts chain is aiming to open a Bible museum near the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

“God’s up to something,” Steve Green, Hobby Lobby’s president, often says.

“We’re just along for the ride.”

Hobby Lobby’s founder — Green’s father, David — has publicly stated the company will not obey a federal mandate to provide employee health insurance that covers abortion-causing drugs. The 530-store chain could face government fines amounting to $1.3 million a day if the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services forces its will on Hobby Lobby and numerous other privately owned businesses lead by Christians who regard abortion as the taking of innocent life.

Steve Green, meanwhile, is leading Hobby Lobby’s plan to open a museum showcasing many of the 40,000 Bible artifacts in The Green Collection secured by the family’s company over the past three years. The museum and accompanying research center will be housed in 400,000-500,000 square feet renovated from two office buildings two blocks from the Air and Space Museum and a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol. The yet-unnamed museum could open as early as the fall of 2016.

Green spoke about the court battle and the museum to editors who visited Hobby Lobby’s headquarters, its sprawling manufacturing plant and four distribution centers on the outskirts of Oklahoma City during the Association of State Baptist Publications’ Feb. 11-14 annual meeting.

Asked if the HHS mandate, if ultimately enforced by the courts, could cost Hobby Lobby its solvency and its vision for a Bible museum, Green said, “I don’t have the answer to that. All I know is that we’re in good hands. I anticipate that it’s going to be a long battle.

“And what and where God directs this, I don’t know.”

Hobby Lobby, in its suit against the HHS mandate, remains in federal appeals court among dozens of companies objecting to the abortion insurance requirement.

“We haven’t gotten to the merits of the case,” Green said of the Hobby Lobby suit. “This is just asking for the injunction. …

“Even if we get a no” on the merits of the case — if two appeals courts issue “two different rulings — and there have been on the injunction — then it’s more likely that the Supreme Court would make a ruling on it. That’s probably, at earliest, a couple of years down the road,” Green said.

Asked how Hobby Lobby’s supporters can pray for the company, Green requested prayer “for the wisdom to say the right things and not say what we shouldn’t be saying. I think that we’re pretty clear. We know what our answer is.

“Pray for our government leaders,” Green added, “and the judges who are going to make the decisions, that exactly what God wants, happens.” (Read the rest here.) 

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