On Wednesday over two dozen Republican House and Senate members held a press conference in support of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which would allow any and all insurers and employers to deny their employees health benefits and services required by federal law based on their personal religious or moral objections.
The lawmakers each condemned President Obama’s contraception rule as an infringement of religious liberty, before TPM’s Sahil Kapur asked, “Would any of you refuse to support a presidential candidate who enacted a similar mandate,” referring to Mitt Romney’s rather complicated past with birth control requirements. The former Massachusetts governor remained mum as the legislature implemented a law requiring insurers to provide contraception in 2003 and his health department issued regulations requiring all hospitals — including Catholic institutions — to offer emergency birth control to rape victims in 2005. The Republicans seemed unsure of how to respond:
There were uncomfortable smiles across the stage. “Somebody else want to do that?” asked Fortenberry, stepping aside from the podium and looking around at his colleagues as they let out a mixture of laughs and groans. A few seconds went by and none volunteered.
“Would anybody be willing to rule that out?” I pressed.
“We’re focused on this,” said Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH).
“The bill before us…” one of her colleagues began and was cut off. “Don’t try to distract!”
“That’s not the issue!” declared Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) in an indignant tone.
Fortenberry then took the mic and addressed the question… sort of.
“This is a legislative initiative that we’re trying to undertake,” he said. “Of course, we’d like our eventual nominee — but this is a bipartisan bill. I mean, I would hope that people who are cosponsors of this bill would urge President Obama to sign this because he has stated that he supports the principles of religious liberty. And so I think he should be comfortable with this measure.”
At least five of the lawmakers who attended Thursday’s press conference in support of the Fortenberry bill — Reps. Sandy Adams (R-FL), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Diane Black (R-TN), Patrick McHenry (R-NC), and Jeff Miller (R-FL) — have also publicly endorsed Romney’s bid for the GOP presidential nomination. Yet, House GOP remain evermore reluctant to address such an egregious case of cognitive dissonance.