Senate vote to block HHS mandate on religious organizations tomorrow

posted at 10:25 am on February 29, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Get your dialing fingers ready.  Roll Call reports that the Senate will hold a floor vote on an amendment by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) to impose a religious-conscience exception to the HHS mandate announced by Barack Obama and Kathleen Sebelius last month.  The bill will come in the form of an amendment to the troubled transportation bill — which either complicates or simplifies the issue for the White House, depending on one’s perspective:

The Senate will vote Thursday on a conscience clause amendment to release religious organizations from government mandates in health care, Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) said today.

The amendment, proposed by Sen.Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) in response to an Obama administration policy that helps provide contraception coverage for women, is supported by a wide range of Republicans and has become a popular target for Democrats. It also has put more moderate New England Republicans facing re-election, such as Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine), in a tough spot.

Scott Brown himself disagrees with that assessment.  Brown wrote earlier this month that he supports an exemption in the law for religious organizations, just as Ted Kennedy insisted on providing in his own health-care proposals.  In fact, Brown feels so strongly about it that he’s now campaigning on the issue, running radio ads in Massachusetts.  The pressure in this case falls mainly on red-state Democrats in the Senate who have to stand for re-election in the fall in areas where religious liberty will be a big issue, including in Blunt’s own state of Missouri where Claire McCaskill will have to answer for her vote on the subject.

The vote sets up either a showdown or an opportunity for Obama, who miscalculated on how much resistance this mandate would generate.  If the amendment passes — and it’s going to be very difficult for McCaskill, Jon Tester, Bill Nelson, Joe Manchin, and even Mark Pryor to vote against it — it would force Obama to veto the entire transportation bill, a bill he has demanded for weeks.  That threatens to strengthen the hand of conservatives in the House and Senate who don’t like the bill as it is now, but who might be cajoled into coming along on it in order to pass Blunt’s bill.  Obama has issued only two vetos in his first term, and vetoing this bill over religious freedom would be a losing proposition, especially since having it pass the Democratic-controlled Senate would make Obama look extreme on the issue.

However, Obama may welcome the opportunity for Congress to roll back part of his mandate.  Its imposition will cost him votes, and its enforcement may well cost him tens of billions of dollars trying to fill gaps left by the departure of religious organizations in the health-care field.  It may even complicate his defense of ObamaCare in the Supreme Court this term, which is already likely to be overturned anyway.  But if Congress changes the mandate, it leaves Obama off the hook from having to retreat on the issue by adding a conscience exemption on his own.  It takes the issue off the table (at least mostly), but most importantly, it leaves the mandate in place for the rest of employers around the country.  Instead of a total win, it would give Obama a partial win and a chance to change the subject.

That’s probably why Reid allowed the Blunt amendment to get a floor vote in the first place.


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One thing I’d like to read more of, somewhere, is how this has changed the opinion of us that might be a little more libertarian on social issues. If the garbage of today’s left are so intent on forcing this onto churches today, what will they be forcing onto churches tomorrow?

Because of this, I’m now a hard no on gay marriage, as leftist garbage will work to force that onto churches, if legalized.

MNHawk on February 29, 2012 at 10:33 AM

Why aren’t we equally annoyed that this mandate requires a business to provide a product or service for “free”?

Cindy Munford on February 29, 2012 at 10:34 AM

I don’t know. It seems like Obama has gotten the Liberal women all riled up about this issue. If it gets to his desk I think he will veto it. If he doesn’t then liberals women won’t get their free birth control. And they won’t be able to say Republicans took it from them if the President signs it, will they? They will be angry with him. I say pass the bill and send it to Obama.

magicbeans on February 29, 2012 at 10:35 AM

Obama vetoes it and the status quo holds, but a few “moderate” Dems in tight elections vote against it to burnish their credentials.

Where’s the downside for Bambi?

PackerBronco on February 29, 2012 at 10:35 AM

in response to an Obama administration policy that helps provide contraception coverage for women

Good grief. Could they spin for the Regime any more blatantly?

forest on February 29, 2012 at 10:36 AM

Dumb move, Mitch.

OhioCoastie on February 29, 2012 at 10:37 AM

Lesbians at Georgetown University to be hardest hit.

The Rogue Tomato on February 29, 2012 at 10:39 AM

Emperor Hussein will either veto, or issue a “signing statement”and act on his own to impose the mandate anyway.

It’s not as if he’s acknowledged ANY Congressional authority to do anything contrary to his diktat.

wildcat72 on February 29, 2012 at 10:39 AM

If people of Faith allow the President “off the hook” by accepting this tossed bone aren’t they just temporarily slowing the process so their rights can be taken at a later date?

miles on February 29, 2012 at 10:40 AM

Just get rid of Obamacare and there won’t be any pathetic demonstrations of how weak and disgusting Republicans can be. Repeal it. All of it. Don’t even talk about replacing it. There is no need for government to be involved. All it does is make prices go up.

Scott Brown is a terrible disappointment. The Senate is full of disappointments. Stop electing wimps to higher office.

BetseyRoss on February 29, 2012 at 10:41 AM

Socialism is the disease and Conservatism is the cure!

vietvet68 on February 29, 2012 at 10:41 AM

It takes the issue off the table

ONLY if Republicans allow it. They should pass the amendment, then tell Barry repeatedly to ‘lean forward’ and shove it up his butt every chance they get; reminding people of his and Her Majesty of Health Care’s violation of the First Amendment.

GarandFan on February 29, 2012 at 10:43 AM

Why aren’t we equally annoyed that this mandate requires a business to provide a product or service for “free”?

Cindy Munford on February 29, 2012 at 10:34 AM

And why aren’t we more annoyed that people of faith who run secular businesses have to pay for the abortion pill? The whole thing needs to be repealed. Period.

Christian Conservative on February 29, 2012 at 10:43 AM

He’ll sign it and accuse Republicans of attacking “Woman’s health” with such ideological vigor that they are attaching frivolous amendments to critical legislation.

I don’t see how he loses. According the the Media Republicans run congress. All of it. The senate can’t even pass a budget!

Mord on February 29, 2012 at 10:44 AM

If this passes, the first thing the GOP should do is defund Planned Parenthood. Since we “empowered women” to have sex without the worry of childbirth, then PP doesn’t need the funding. You can make the point that the money women save on contraception should provide funds to pay for an abortion.
You can also call for an end to welfare, in the sense of new enrollment or with an age requirement. It goes back to the “empowering women” argument. Women under the age of 25 will not be permitted to enroll. You can make the argument that women under this age that decide to keep their babies should have the means to support them. Welfare isn’t a system that rewards irresponsible behavior. It will be there, in times of serious need, but should be limited like unemployment.

djaymick on February 29, 2012 at 10:45 AM

What if you’re not a Catholic and still have zero interest in paying for other people’s birth control? Is there a ‘conscience of a conservative’ objection?

CorporatePiggy on February 29, 2012 at 10:47 AM

in areas where religious liberty will be a big issue,

This line shocked me

faraway on February 29, 2012 at 10:48 AM

Obama vetoes it and the status quo holds, but a few “moderate” Dems in tight elections vote against it to burnish their credentials.

Where’s the downside for Bambi?

PackerBronco on February 29, 2012 at 10:35 AM

It’s too late for Obama. He’s already hurt himself on this because it shows what he’ll do if given a second term. It has also helped make the Republican candidates more conservative. Here’s Romney after yesterday’s win:

“More jobs, less debt, smaller government — we’re going to hear that day in and day out,” he said. “I stand ready to lead our party to victory and our nation back to prosperity.”

Vince on February 29, 2012 at 10:50 AM

This is just more bone-headed showboating by the Stupid Party in congress: amend a bad law by attaching the amendment to another bad law. Yeah, THAT’S the ticket! Many respected legal scholars have already this HHS mandate won’t pass the current religious protection law much less the Constitution. If the congress wants to show their commitment to the Constitution and a little personal courage, they should impeach judges who violate their oath of office.

cartooner on February 29, 2012 at 10:51 AM

Because of this, I’m now a hard no on gay marriage, as leftist garbage will work to force that onto churches, if legalized.
MNHawk on February 29, 2012 at 10:33 AM

It’s already happening.

But in a review of more than 1,000 state laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender or marital status, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty discovered that 350 of those laws would be triggered, or become applicable for lawsuits, by the recognition of same-sex marriage.

Ever wonder why there are proverbs like these in every culture and every era?

“Don’t let the camel get his nose under the tent.”
“Give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile.”
“The domino effect.”
“Slippery slope.”

“If you give a mouse a cookie…”

AesopFan on February 29, 2012 at 10:54 AM

Why aren’t we equally annoyed that this mandate requires a business to provide a product or service for “free”?

Cindy Munford on February 29, 2012 at 10:34 AM

THAT is as scary a precedent as claiming the authority to COMPEL private citizens into purchasing a product against their will simply because they exist. IE: the Obamacare mandate itself.

wildcat72 on February 29, 2012 at 10:56 AM

Mitch is as senile as Harry…How will this get screwed up?

KOOLAID2 on February 29, 2012 at 10:57 AM

Why does the GOP want to introduce a bill that will save Democrats in red states?

faraway on February 29, 2012 at 11:02 AM

its enforcement may well cost him tens of billions of dollars trying to fill gaps left by the departure of religious organizations in the health-care field.

For Obama that’s a feature not a bug.

andycanuck on February 29, 2012 at 11:03 AM

Please be accurate, this amendment deals with both the religious objections and “moral objections”of employers. Morality is personal and idiosyncratic. This legislation is nothing more than cover for employers to avoid their responsibilities under existing law – whether you agree with that law or not.

plewis on February 29, 2012 at 11:09 AM

If Congress follows through on this it will still keep erupting. The 1st Amendment is not limited to “religious institutions” – they are individual rights afforded to all. Any company or individual could just as easily claim the same exemption on the same basis. And will.

tommyboy on February 29, 2012 at 11:09 AM

Morality is personal

plewis on February 29, 2012 at 11:09 AM

Except when leftist garbage want to force themselves onto other people.

If your morality was so personal, why the need to force it onto others?

MNHawk on February 29, 2012 at 11:21 AM

“Obama has issued only two vetos in his first term … ” – Ed

Maybe that’s because Slimy Harry Reid refuses to address the issues?

“But if Congress changes the mandate, it leaves Obama off the hook from having to retreat on the issue by adding a conscience exemption on his own. It takes the issue off the table (at least mostly), but most importantly, it leaves the mandate in place for the rest of employers around the country. Instead of a total win, it would give Obama a partial win and a chance to change the subject.” – Ed

Yes, but don’t you see the inevitable fallout? ChicagØbama will flip on every point that is of utmost import. to Indies, moderates, and Conservatives.
Political expedience, doncha know. His heart and soul are still as dark as anthracite.

~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on February 29, 2012 at 11:24 AM

What bothers me about this that Congress is creating legislation under the assumption that they have power over religious organizations on this matter in the first place. This is no better than the Executive Branch tinkering in this area. Of all of the Constitutions amendments this is the clearest, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The Executive Branch’s interpreted “Affordable” Health Care Act in a way that was unconstitutional. Congress’s so-called fix presumes that the Executive Branch could have done what they did in the first place, which is wrong. I say let this play out. As other commenters have mentioned, why are we trying to save the Dem Senators bacon on this one?

RedinPDRM on February 29, 2012 at 11:24 AM

So a Repunk, who must be up for re-election or is dumber than a door knob, pandering to his base, throws the Lyin kING a life jacket to save his butt this fall.
Tell me again how Mitt Romneycare is gonna win!

I DON”T WANT TO PAY FOR ANYONE ELSES DRUGS, ABORTIONS, HEALTHCARE, BIRTH CONTROL!
WHY AN ESCAPE HATCH FOR CATHOLICS WHO VOTE FOR RATS AND NOT THE REST OF US?

The stupid Party at it again!

REPEAL THE DAMN THING AND UNTIL YOU CAN BLOCK EVERY DAM THING YOU CAN!

Harry Reid gets it. Harry Reid has more balls than the entire Repunk caucus!

ConcealedKerry on February 29, 2012 at 11:36 AM

Why take obamba off the hook? Leave the turd on the hook – now that’s a pretty site, obamba on a hook.

rjulio on February 29, 2012 at 11:56 AM

On Thursday, the Senate will consider Senator Roy Blunt’s amendment to the Senate version of the highway bill. It is the only amendment the Senate GOP will offer up.

On its surface, it is a good amendment. It will allow religious employers to opt out of the new Obamacare mandate on contraception and abortifacient drugs. But strategically, it is another lame effort by Senator Mitch McConnell to let Senate Democrats in swing states absolve themselves of any blame for what Barack Obama has done.

“See, the highway bill probably is not going to pass. So Senator Blunt’s amendment won’t actually pass. But Senate Democrats can vote for it and then claim in their 2012 election that they too oppose the President, but alas their measure failed. At the same time, no outside groups want a vote right now. If there is a vote this week and the bill ultimately dies, the issue goes away in the press and Christian groups are only now whipping up opposition to the HHS regulation. Roy Blunt’s amendment comes too soon and takes off the table an issue social conservatives care about just as Republican leaders are whispering that the issue hurts them (coincidence?).

Consider the alternative. There is another amendment Senator McConnell expressly refuses to bring up this week as an alternative — an amendment by Senator Jim DeMint for full repeal of Obamacare.”

Marginalizing the Tea Party again?
How stupid and complicit are the establishment Repunks?
I’ll tell ya, it’s beyond stupid, it’s complicit, inside the beltway game playing.
Force everyone but Catholics to pay for the Democrat bases healthcare? The Bush wing of the Repunk Party loves them some paying for everyone elses bills.
I don’t need the pill why should I pay for someone elses, when my family needed it we paid for it!
THROW EM OUT ! ANY OVER TWO TERMS GONE!

ConcealedKerry on February 29, 2012 at 11:57 AM

Harry Reid gets it. Harry Reid has more balls than the entire Repunk caucus!

ConcealedKerry on February 29, 2012 at 11:36 AM

Seek help of the therapeutic nature.
Alice through the looking glass makes him/her appear ten feet tall.
Just go ask Alice.
~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on February 29, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Mitch is as senile as Harry…How will this get screwed up?

KOOLAID2 on February 29, 2012 at 10:57 AM

Harry Reid is light years smarter than McConnell and Boehner. He heads his Party and leads them to victory.
He blocks bills he doesn’t agree with.
The stupid party gets rolled every time they deal with him!
Wake the Hell up Rpunks your throwin the rabbit in the briar patch you numbskulls!

ConcealedKerry on February 29, 2012 at 12:02 PM

For the record, Scott Brown has also never supported tax payer funded abortion, and had offered a conscience amendmentment at one time when he was on Beacon Hill in MA as a lowly rep or state senator, to allow…health care workers at any hospital not to have to engage in practices which were against their religion. So, he is hard to quantify on some of these issues, you should always start from a point of giving Scott Brown the benefit of the doubt, and look at his senate page: scottbrown.senate.gov.

N.B.you should be careful that you are not using the record of S. Brown, democrat of Ohio, (brown.senate.gov,) Sherrod Brown, turns up in internet searches, and causes some people to go off the rails unnecessarily. Sherrod Brown is an Ohio liberal. I hope someone is running against him. What are the chances to get rid of this guy and end the confusion???

Fleuries on February 29, 2012 at 12:12 PM

Concealed Kerry,

Harry Reid is light years smarter than McConnell and Boehner. He heads his Party and leads them to victory.

Not allowing debate on any issue is not a way to lead your party to victory, he is winning because the ends for him justify the means, just like he won’t put a Senate bill together to put the budget numbers on paper, inspite of a law saying he must do so, so we can see them. He leads in the dark with bills that are written after they are passed. He behaves in a non-american fashion.

Fleuries on February 29, 2012 at 12:15 PM

Where is my exemption?

65droptop on February 29, 2012 at 12:16 PM

Obama is not smart enough to sign this bill if the amendment passes. He is an ideologue on abortion and will not sign anything that hands a victory to pro-life forces.

rockmom on February 29, 2012 at 12:20 PM

Why do we need an amendment to support what already exists in the Constitution????

retiredeagle on February 29, 2012 at 12:56 PM

Why aren’t we equally annoyed that this mandate requires a business to provide a product or service for “free”?

Cindy Munford on February 29, 2012 at 10:34 AM

But…but…but…insurance companies pay for Viagra and that’s just the same as an abortion pill, so it’s all because the Catholic Church hates women and so do Republicans…and…and…something.

Lib4Life

Trafalgar on February 29, 2012 at 12:57 PM

Fleuries on February 29, 2012 at 12:15 PM

“he (Reid) is winning because the ends
for him justify the means.” = winning!

Concealedkerry
Rinos,,,, cause the means justify the ends = Losing!

You don’t elimante a cancer by eliminating small pieces of it as they arise, you do so by attacking vigorously the whole mass!

The Rinos are content to nibble around the edges in defending our freedoms and in this case hand the enemy a lifeline!
The trouble is they don’t see democrats as the enemy rather as fellow travelors on the gravy train who mean well but can be compromised with.

You do realize this whole election has been set up to be the freebee taking 52% vs the working 48% don’t you?
The Repunks had better wake up else we who work will pay for those who don’t until the whole system collapses and it is every man for himself!
Its about who turns out which group right now and this type of political pandering does not a dam thing to help!

ConcealedKerry on February 29, 2012 at 1:36 PM

Morality is personal

plewis on February 29, 2012 at 11:09 AM

Conduct is personal, morality is not, except to liberals who use that canard as justification for not taking responsibility for immoral personal conduct. Morality is conforming to ideals of right human conduct, not whatever you decide it is for yourself.

Trafalgar on February 29, 2012 at 1:38 PM

Obamacare “already likely to be overturned”? If this is like the rest of your recent predictions (the HHS mandate will be overturned within a week) I’d better not hold my breath. As much as I would like for you to be wrong, I just don’t think Anthony Kennedy is going to have the moral courage to do the right thing.

senor on February 29, 2012 at 1:45 PM

Isn’t this mandate already illegal?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_Freedom_Restoration_Act

cptacek on February 29, 2012 at 2:15 PM

Generally, I support the churches’ fight on this as a 1A issue. ON the other hand, the heck with organized churches. Why should organized churches be exempt from this while I, a small business owner, have to provide it? Why should a church leader be able to follow his conscience and opt out but a small business owner be forced at the point of a gun to provide it regardless of his personal morality?

This is classic Roy Blunt and the reason I have never supported any of his congressional ambitions. Blunt gives a lot of lip service to conservative principles but when push comes to shove, he will always support creating special classes of citizens who get to follow different rules.

deepdiver on February 29, 2012 at 5:32 PM

I’ll be darned. I retract what I said above. The articles had couched this as Blunt’s amendment being specific to religious organizations. Further research shows it to be a more general exemption. Poorly reported in most news accounts.

deepdiver on February 29, 2012 at 8:05 PM