The Senate blocked a potential legislative fix for the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Hobby Lobby, preventing the bill from moving forward with a 56-43 vote for cloture. That falls just four votes short of the 60 needed to advance the measure.
The legislation, which has become known as the “Not My Bosses’ Business Act,” would have prevented for-profit businesses from dropping birth control coverage by clarifying that no federal law allows companies to refuse to follow Obamacare’s contraception mandate. It was endorsed by the White House, which released a statement on Wednesday saying that the administration strongly supports the effort to give the women affected by the recent court ruling “the same coverage that everyone else is offered without interference by their employer.”
The measure was never expected to actually become law, since it had little hope of passing the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. But supporters hoped to force lawmakers to go on the record about whether they actually support women’s birth control coverage, particularly as reproductive health is shaping up to be a significant election issue. Three Republicans — Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Mark Kirk (R-IL) — voted in support of the legislation.
Still, reproductive rights groups expressed disappointment that it failed to advance in the Senate. “A small number of senators chose politics over women’s health today by refusing to allow debate on this bill to move forward,” Laura W. Murphy, the director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, said in a statement. “This isn’t a vote women will forget in November,” the feminist group UltraViolet warned.
Republicans are planning to offer their own legislation in response to Hobby Lobby — an effort that’s currently being led by Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Deb Fischer (R-NE). According to Republican leadership, the GOP-sponsored bill will state that “no employer can block any employee from legal access to her FDA-approved contraceptives.” However, that wouldn’t actually do anything to change the current reproductive rights landscape. The Hobby Lobby case wasn’t about the legality of birth control; it related to whether for-profit companies should have the right to drop insurance coverage for contraception, a move that would require women to pay for the full cost of their birth control out of pocket.
The Senate leadership will likely keep trying to round up the necessary votes for their Hobby Lobby bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) entered a motion to reconsider the cloture vote at a later time.
The House also rejected the “Not My Boss’ Business” bill this week, using a procedural vote to block consideration of the legislation. “This vote puts the House on record when it comes to women’s health,” the leaders of the House Pro-Choice Caucus said in a statement. “The women of America should know where their representative stands.”