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Entries in Mandate (5)

Thursday
Mar012012

Senate Blocks Blunt’s Repeal of Contraception Mandate

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate voted Thursday to block a Republican challenge to President Obama’s birth-control mandate. The legislation, sponsored by Republican Roy Blunt of Missouri, was voted down 51 to 48. It would have let employers refuse to include contraception in health care coverage based on their “religious belief or moral conviction.”

Blunt’s legislation, an amendment to a transportation bill, was a response to Obama’s mandate that contraception services be covered by most religious groups.

The amendment wasn’t expected to pass. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he had allowed the vote because Republicans wouldn’t let the transportation bill advance without a vote on the contraception measure. Democrats characterized the Blunt amendment as a measure that would deny women access to contraception.

Before the vote, Blunt spoke on the floor of the Senate to argue that his proposal wouldn’t change “the world that we live in right now.” He said, “People have the same protection today to exert their religious views in their health care policies that they provide as an employer that they would have if this amendment passed.

“It may not change any minds today, but this issue will not go away unless the administration decides to take it away by giving people of faith these First Amendment protections,” he said.

The White House opposed the measure in a statement from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who said that it would “allow employers that have no religious affiliation to exclude coverage of any health service, no matter how important, in the health plan they offer to their workers.”

Obama drew criticism from conservatives last month after announcing his birth-control mandate, although he later allowed faith-based employers to opt out of the rule, winning over some Catholics.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb282012

Senate to Vote on Repeal of Obama’s Contraception Mandate

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate will vote Thursday on the controversial repeal of the administration’s birth-control mandate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Tuesday.

“After discussing it with numerous senators, I decided we should set up a vote on contraception and women’s health,” the Nevada Democrat said.  “Once we’ve put this extreme and distracting proposal behind us, I hope my Republican colleagues will stop living in the past and join us this year, 2012.”

The Republican amendment, offered by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., is a response to the White House’s contraception mandate and if passed would permit employers to exclude health care services that they find immoral from their insurance plans.

Blunt has called the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate and the subsequent White House’s updated contraception rule “unconstitutional.”

“Just because you can come up with an accounting gimmick and pretend like religious institutions do not have to pay for the mandate, does not mean that you’ve satisfied the fundamental constitutional freedoms that all Americans are guaranteed,” Blunt said after the White House tweaked the original proposal in early February to reflect that religious-affiliated institutions will not be mandated to cover birth control for their employees.

“I’ll continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that we reverse this unconstitutional mandate in its entirety,” he promised then.

Since then, Republicans have been pushing for a vote for the amendment, attempting to no avail to get a vote within non-germane bills. At least once before, a vote on the repeal amendment was blocked by Reid.

But now the amendment will get a vote -- in an unrelated bill, as an amendment to the surface transportation bill that is making its way through the Senate.

Reid said Tuesday he’s allowing the vote on the Blunt amendment because Republicans have made it clear the transportation bill won’t move forward without one.

“What’s standing in the way is Republicans’ insistence on having a vote on a measure that would deny women access to health services like contraception and even prenatal screenings,” Reid said. “The Republican leader and others on the Republican side of the aisle made it very clear the Senate is not going to be able to move forward on this important surface transportation bill unless we vote on contraception and women’s health.”

Senate Democrats argue that the Blunt amendment is a “radical departure” that gives employers “broad discretion” to deny employees coverage for services including contraception, mammograms, pre-natal screenings, cervical cancer screenings and potentially even flu shots, which could put women’s health at risk.

They argue that it is not a religious issue, as Republicans say, and is a women’s health issue.

The announcement Tuesday that Reid would allow a vote on the repeal amendment did not go over well among Democrats, even though they admitted that a vote must happen to move forward with the transportation bill.

“We’re in a situation in the 21st century where in order to move forward on a highway bill that funds our highways, our roads, our bridges, our transit systems, in order to move forward on that jobs bill, where 2.8 million jobs are at stake in this great nation, we have to have a vote on birth control,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said on the Senate floor. “I just want to say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, what are you thinking?”

While the amendment is not expected to pass, this sets up a politically tricky vote for some Senate Democrats like Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who were either against or expressed reservations about the original and updated mandate.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb092012

GOP Tries to Add Contraception Repeal Language to Transportation Bill

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Republicans Thursday tried to put language that would repeal the Obama administration’s mandate that religious entities cover contraception into the non-related highway bill that’s currently pending on the Senate floor.

The move was intercepted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who blocked the contraception-repeal amendment being called for by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., calling it “senseless.”

"I appreciate the Republicans’ opportunity to never lose an opportunity to mess up a good piece of legislation,” Reid said sarcastically. “Let’s do the banking part of this bill. Let’s do the finance part of this bill. Let’s do the commerce part of this bill. But to show how the Republicans never lose an opportunity to mess up a good piece of legislation, listen to this: They’re talking about First Amendment rights, the Constitution.”  

Reid blocked the repeal language from being considered with the other germane amendments to the transportation bill, infuriating Republicans who have been calling for President Obama to reverse his decision on the contraception mandate.

“They won’t allow those of us who are sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution to even offer an amendment that says we believe in our First Amendment right to religious freedom,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “This is a day I was not inclined to think I would ever see. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life defending the First Amendment, but I never thought I’d see a day when the elected representatives of the people of this country would be blocked by a majority party in Congress to even express their support for it regardless of the ultimate outcome.”

Reid said the rule on the contraception mandate has not been made final by the White House yet -- so everyone should sit tight.

“Let’s wait until there’s at least a rule that we can talk about,” Reid said. “Everybody should calm down. Let’s see what transpires. So let’s deal until there’s a final rule on this. Let’s deal with the issue before us.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb092012

Biden on Contraception Controversy: ‘We Can Work It Out’

ABC News(CINCINNATI) -- Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday he was confident the Obama administration could resolve concerns surrounding its decision to require most employers, including Catholic hospitals and charities, to offer health insurance that fully covers contraception.

“I am determined to see that this gets worked out, and I believe we can work it out,” Biden said on a radio program in Cincinnati Thursday. “But the frustration...is real.”

The vice president said there had been “a lot of misunderstanding” about the administration’s decision, suggesting there had not been enough focus on the one-year timeframe for employers to comply.

“When HHS put out its ruling on this issue, it said that it’s going to take a year to work out whatever difficulties the Catholic church has, to make sure we do not force the Catholic church into a position where they are having to do something that they fundamentally think is inconsistent with their religious beliefs. That is underway,” he explained.

“There’s going to be a significant attempt to work this out, and there’s time to do that. And as a practicing Catholic, you know, I am of the view that this can be worked out and should be worked out and I think the president, I know the president, feels the same way,” Biden said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb082012

Senate Dems Say Obama ‘Reinforced’ Stance on Contraception Mandate at Retreat

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama “reinforced” his stance on the controversial contraception mandate while speaking at the Democrats’ annual retreat at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Senate Democrats said.

The retreat was closed to media.

Following President Obama’s speech at the retreat, a small group of Senate Democrats, mostly women, left the retreat early in order to hold a news conference on Capitol Hill to counter the Republicans’ news conference Wednesday at which they called for the mandate to be overturned.

Democrats said they will “fight strongly” to keep the mandate in place.

“It is our clear understanding from the administration that the president believes as we do, and the vast majority of the American women should have access to birth control,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said pointing out that 15 percent of women use birth control for medical issues. “It’s medicine, and women deserve their medicine.”

Democrats on Wednesday called on Republicans to stop using women as a “political football,” and stop defining this debate, as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., did earlier in the day, as a religious issue.

“It’s time to tell Republicans ‘mind your own business,’” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J. "Ideology should never be used to block women from getting the care they need to lead healthier lives."

“The power to decide whether or not to use contraception lies with a woman -- not her boss,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. “What is more intrusive than trying to allow an employer to make medical decisions for someone who works for them?”

Sen. Patty Murray, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, was asked if she was concerned about some Democrats, such as Tim Kaine, the former DNC chairman and Virginia governor now running for a Virginia Senate seat, disagreeing with parts of the White House’s decision. Kaine supports the mandate but said Tuesday that the White House made a “bad decision” in not allowing a broad enough religious employer exemption.

“I know that our candidates know their states and they know their own beliefs, and I back them in doing that,” Murray responded Wednesday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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