Murkowski Regrets Voting For Blunt’s ‘Religious Conscience’ Measure: ‘I Have Let These Women Down’

Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski told a local newspaper yesterday that she regrets her vote for the so-called Blunt amendment, the GOP’s alternative to President Obama’s rule requiring employers to provide contraception coverage as part of their health care insurance plans. Under the amendment, which the Senate tabled with the help of just one Republican, employers would have been empowered to deny coverage of health services to their employees on the basis of personal moral objections.

“I have never had a vote I’ve taken where I have felt that I let down more people that believed in me,” Murkowski told the Anchorage Daily News’ Julia O’Malley, claiming that the amendment’s language went “overboard”:

“If you had it to do over again, having had the weekend that you had with women being upset about the vote, do you think you would have voted the same?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

Murkowski said she believes contraception should be covered and affordable, except when it comes to churches and religiously affiliated organizations, like some universities and hospitals. She sponsored a contraception coverage bill as a state legislator in 2002. That bill exempted “religious employers.” She said her position hasn’t changed.

“I have always said if you don’t like abortion the best way to deal with it is to not have unwanted pregnancies in the first place,” she said. “How do you do that? It’s through contraception.”

I pointed out that her support for birth control conflicts with the Catholic mandate against it. “You know, I don’t adhere to all of the tenets of my faith. I’m a Republican, I don’t adhere to all of the principles that come out of my party,” she said. “I’m also not hesitant to question when I think that my church, my religion, is not current.”

Murkowski called the Blunt Amendment a “messaging amendment” that “both sides know is not going to pass” and said “Republicans didn’t have enough sense to get off of it.” She also condemned Rush Limbaugh’s deragatory comments about a Georgetown law student testifying in favor of greater access to birth control. “I think women when they hear…mouthpieces like that say things like that they get concerned and they look to policymakers,” she said. “That’s where I feel like I have let these women down is that I have not helped to give these women the assurance they need that their health care rights are protected.”

Before the vote, ThinkProgress repeatedly called Murkowski’s office to ask how she would vote on the Blunt measure, but her office did not return our requests for comment. Retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) was the only Republican to oppose the measure.