The bill, developed in consultation with the Obama administration, would require for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby Stores to provide and pay for contraceptive coverage, along with other preventive services, under the Affordable Care Act…
“Your health care decisions are not your boss’s business,” said Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, who led efforts by Senate Democrats to respond to the court ruling. “Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women’s access to health care, I will.”…
Ms. Murray’s bill criticizes the Supreme Court’s majority opinion and repudiates it by declaring that “employers may not discriminate against their female employees” in coverage of preventive health services.
To this end, it says that an employer “shall not deny coverage of a specific health care item or service” where coverage is required under any provision of federal law. Moreover, it says, this requirement shall apply to employers notwithstanding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“Your health care decisions are not your boss’s business,” she huffed, while insisting that your boss pay for those decisions. Incidentally, I’ve seen some confusion online today about whether Congress can overturn a Supreme Court decision. Sure they can, if the decision is based on the Court’s interpretation of legislation rather than an interpretation of the Constitution. Congress can always change its own laws. The Hobby Lobby decision was based on a reading of a federal statute, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, not a reading of the First Amendment. So yeah, this is fair game for Murray to change — if she can. Which she can’t: Obviously the bill is dead on arrival in the House. The only suspense, as Noah suggested, is what Senate Republicans will do. Do they try to filibuster it, handing Democrats an easy “Conservatives hate birth control!” talking point with which to pander to the single women who increasingly make up their base, or they let the Dems pass it and then watch as the bill dies a quiet death in the House?
But never mind that. Of all the bills Democrats could try to pass to make birth control “free” for their core constituency, how come they favor carving out an exception to a law that protects religious freedom? A Twitter buddy wonders:
SCOTUS: You could provide contraception by letting Hobby Lobby opt in to the non-profit program
Dems: F*** YOU! http://t.co/C6VxnOiC6U
— PoliMath (@politicalmath) July 8, 2014
Yeah, how come they didn’t amend the administration’s phony “costless” accommodation for religious nonprofits to include closely held corporations too? That would have left RFRA alone while making sure that Hobby Lobby employees could still get their abortifacient birth control “free” without the company being forced to pay for it. In fact, that’s what some observers think the White House will end up doing via HHS regulation. The fact that Murray insists on trying to chip away at RFRA tells you all you need to know about the symbolic clash of values Democrats want to set up here. They don’t want to “accommodate” religious freedom, they want to signal that that freedom is subordinate to your inalienable right to have your employer subsidize your reproductive choices. It may be that Murray thinks the accommodation will also end up being nuked by the Supremes and doesn’t want to rely on it as a fix under the circumstances, but that’s unclear for the moment. Even if it ends up happening, she could introduce her bill later as a response. The reason she’s making this move now is because Democrats need an angle for the midterms and, frankly, income inequality just isn’t hacking it. When in doubt, push the “war on women” crap, as boldly as you can.
Here’s Harry Reid yesterday promising to do “something” on the Hobby Lobby ruling, which is an appropriate way to describe Democratic strategy here. What they do, precisely, isn’t terribly important as long as it gives them opportunities to pander. Exit question: Dick Durbin’s alternate bill would force employers to disclose whether they cover birth control or not, presumably to open them up to ceremonial leftist shaming and boycotts. Is that a better or worse solution than Murray’s bill?