It’s rare for the Speaker of the House to take to the floor to deliver pointed remarks against the president — but Speaker John Boehner did just that today. With fighting words, the Ohio Republican indicated that House Republicans will do whatever is in their power to reverse the administration’s mandate that even religiously-affiliated, conscientiously-opposed-to-contraception employers offer insurance coverage for contraception to employees.
“This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country must not stand and will not stand,” Boehner said.
He promised that the House will take action on an-already-introduced bill to repeal the policy as soon as possible.
Reports yesterday indicated that, given the backlash, the White House might be willing to compromise on the policy, after all — but Richard Doerflinger, a top official at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has already gone on record saying the proposed compromise could be even worse than the original policy. According to The Weekly Standard, Doerflinger wrote the following in an e-mail:
It’s difficult to know what people may mean by the “Hawaii compromise.” But a central feature of the Hawaii law is that every religious organization that is eligible for the exemption has to instruct all employees in how they can access all methods of contraception and sterilization locally “in an expeditious manner.”
Just a few days ago the White House was saying that this is just about coverage, that no one has to be involved in getting people to the actual services they object to. It would be no improvement to say: “Sure, you don’t have to include the coverage, you just have to send all your lay employees and women religious to the local Planned Parenthood clinic.” The Administration’s press release of January 20 hinted at such a requirement.
It’s safe to say the president would never have insisted on the policy in the first place unless he felt reasonably sure the political math worked out. In other words, he would not have stood by this if he thought it in any way jeopardized his reelection. He was counting on the votes of women and young voters to offset any disappointment or disillusionment this caused in Catholic and other voters. If he is now considering a compromise because he’s concerned the backlash is too great, you can bet it won’t be to settle on a compromise that threatens the votes of the liberal women and youth he’s courting with contraception coverage in the first place.
Religious-freedom-minded individuals continue to be outraged at the administration’s decision, though, and, if it keeps up, the president could be forced to back down. Catholic League president Bill Donohue has even called for Catholics to take to the streets in peaceful protest. With Boehner promising repeal and the public vehemently rejecting the administration’s blatant assault on religious freedom, it looks increasingly likely that this decision has just made Obama’s defeat in 2012 more probable.