Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) hinted that Republicans in the House would not introduce legislation thwarting a new rule requiring employers and insurers to offer contraception and other preventive services as part of their health insurance coverage, signaling a softer tone on the issue.
Throughout the month of February, the GOP charged that the requirement, part of the Affordable Care Act, is an attack on religious liberties. Boehner himself insisted that the “the federal government is violating a First Amendment right that has stood for more than two centuries.” “If the president does not reverse the [Health and Human Services] Department’s attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must,” he added, and explained that a bill would be moving through “appropriate legislative channels.”
But with the new rule scheduled to go into effect on August 1, the Speaker signaled an unwillingness on Thursday to take-up the fight:
REPORTER: Next week, the plan to require health care plans to include contraception, sterilization will go into effect. You said last year that you guys were going to introduce legislation to address that, it never came up. What are you guys planning on doing?
BOEHNER: We’re continuing to work with those groups around the country who believe that their religious liberties are being infringed to try to come to a resolution of this issue. Sometimes resolving this issue can be done other than legislative avenues. So we’re continuing to work with them on the best way forward.
Though Boehner is not pursuing a showy initiative, Republicans are advancing a provision to defund enforcement efforts for the contraceptive guarantee as part of the Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations bill, FY13.