While GOP senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has pledged to fight the Obama’s administration’s modified regulation requiring health insurers and busnisses to offer contraception coverage without additional cost sharing, the revised rule “appears to have won over” two of the five Republican women senators.
Sens. Olympia Snowe (ME) and Susan Collins (ME) — both of whom have sponsored legislation requiring insurers to offer contraception benefits in all health plans — are in favor of the new compromise, which would allow religiously affiliated colleges, universities, and hospitals to avoid providing birth control. Their employees will still receive contraception coverage at no additional cost sharing directly from the insurer:
“It appears that changes have been made that provide women’s health services without compelling Catholic organizations in particular to violate the beliefs and tenets of their faith,” Snowe said in a statement. “According to the Catholic Health Association, the administration ‘responded to the issues [they] identified that needed to be fixed,’ which is what I urged the president to do in addressing this situation.
“While I will carefully review the details of the president’s revised proposal, it appears to be a step in the right direction,” Collins said in a statement. “The administration’s original plan was deeply flawed and clearly would have posed a threat to religious freedom. It presented the Catholic Church with its wide-ranging social, educational, and health care services, and many other faith-based organizations, with an impossible choice between violating their religious beliefs or violating federal regulations. The administration has finally listened to the concerns raised by many and appears to be seeking to avoid the threat to religious liberties posed by its original plan.”
Republicans in the senate seem determined to oppose the compromise and have introduced legislation that would allow employers or individuals to opt out of any benefit that undermines their moral beliefs. “They don’t have the authority under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution to tell someone in this country or some organization in this country what their religious beliefs are,” McConnell told “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “This issue will not go away until the administration simply backs down,” he said.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), who led the GOP’s opposition to the original rule, has yet to issue a statement on the measure and did not respond to ThinkProgress’ query about her position. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) also did not respond. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) co-sponsored a 1999 bill requiring contraception equity in insurance coverage and has not yet to weigh in on the current debate.
Ayotte tells the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent that she still opposes Obama’s proposal:
“The president’s proposal leaves religious institutions vulnerable to federal coercion. This debate has always been about religious freedom. As I fight for a full repeal of Obamacare, I will continue to push for a legislative solution that protects conscience rights.”