Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn — a stalwart against government overreach — disagrees with the Obama administration’s mandate that even religiously-affiliated employers provide employees with insurance that covers contraception, but he doesn’t think it represents a particularly drastic departure from the president’s other policies.
“This is blown out of proportion,” he said. “It is an important point in terms of religious liberty, but it’s a consequence of having too big of a government.”
Coburn acknowledged that the program has “professed benefits,” but said “in the long run we all lose when the government is that involved in our life.”
“There’s nothing wrong with their motivation — they’re well-meaning people,” he said. “But the consequence is that we lose liberty.”
Perhaps he has a point; after all, it’s not as though this were the first indication we’ve had that the president wants to prescribe what constitutes “health care.” As Daniel Henninger writes in The Wall Street Journal, inflexibility has long been a hallmark of those who seek to transform the nation for the public good:
Older Americans have sought for years to drop out of Medicare and contract for their own health insurance. They cannot without forfeiting their Social Security payments. They effectively are locked in. Nor can the poor escape Medicaid, even as the care it gives them degrades. Farmers, ranchers and loggers struggled for years to protect their livelihoods beneath uncompromising interpretations of federal environmental laws. They, too, had to comply. University athletic programs were ground up by the U.S. Education Department’s rote, forced gender balancing of every sport offered.
With the transformers, it never stops. In September, the Obama Labor Department proposed rules to govern what work children can do on farms. After an outcry from rural communities over the realities of farm traditions, the department is now reconsidering a “parental exemption.” Good luck to the farmers.
The Catholic Church has stumbled into the central battle of the 2012 presidential campaign: What are the limits to Barack Obama’s transformative presidency? The Catholic left has just learned one answer: When Mr. Obama says, “Everyone plays by the same set of rules,” it means they conform to his rules. What else could it mean?
If Coburn had meant that objectors to the mandate are overly dramatic to link it to religious liberty, then I would have vehemently disagreed with him. In that sense, the debate is not “overblown.” But if what he means is that we should have woken up before now — and that this doesn’t fundamentally change the fight we’re waging, which is to repeal Obamacare entirely — then he’s right. An exclusive focus on the Obama administration’s overreach in the case of the contraception mandate just isn’t quite broad enough: We still need complete repeal.