Boehner pledges to end Obama mandate as Catholic Dems splinter, Obama digs in heels
WASHINGTON, February 9, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - House speaker John Boehner has pledged that Congress will block the Obama administration’s mandate that most religious employers pay for birth control coverage, a mandate that has proved so thorny that several prominent Catholic Democrats have begun to turn against it.
“If the president does not reverse the department’s attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must,” said Boehner in a rare floor speech, according to the Washington Times.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has already introduced a bill to repeal the mandate, and blasted President Obama over the new rule in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday.
“I know what the U.S. Constitution says about it, and what it says is the federal government does not have the power to force religious organizations to pay for things that that organization thinks is wrong,” said Rubio, widely thought to be a possible GOP vice presidential pick.
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On the other side of the aisle, more Catholic Democrats are backing away from the mandate that has left even much of the liberal Catholic establishment in shock.
Rep. John Larson, the House’s fourth-ranking Democrat, is urging the administration to reconsider, according to Politico. “Having worked to pass the Affordable Care Act and being firmly supportive of its implementation, I believe that further flexibility needs to be granted to religiously affiliated organizations in this instance,” wrote Larson in a letter to Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Tim Kaine, Obama’s former DNC chairman, shared similar sentiments. “I think the White House made a good decision in including a mandate for contraception coverage in the [health care act] insurance policy,” Kaine, a former Virginia governor, said in a radio interview on WHRV also picked up by Politico. “But I think they made a bad decision in not allowing a broad enough religious employer exemption.”
Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, who has in recent years turned against his earlier conservative views on abortion, told a constituent that he was “disappointed” at the mandate. Rep. Daniel Lipinski of Illinois and freshman Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, both Catholics, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, have also come out against the mandate, making a total of five Congressional Democrats so far.
Bart Stupak and Kathy Dahlkemper, two Catholic Democrat Representatives who lost their seats in 2010 amid backlash for supporting the health care bill at the last minute, have also expressed dismay over the mandate.
Dahlkemper has said she wouldn’t have voted for the bill had she anticipated the mandate, and Stupak said that the executive order Obama signed in exchange for his support two years ago ostensibly upholding traditional restrictions on abortion funding should apply to abortifacient birth control drugs as well.
Despite hints at considering resolving conflict over the mandate earlier in the week, the administration on Wednesday made it clear that it was sticking by the principle of birth control as a civil right, a view shared by the family planning lobby, which has been calling strenuously for the mandate to stay in place.
“I want to be clear today that the commitment to ensuring that women have access to these important health care services remains very strong,” Mr. Obama’s spokesman, Jay Carney, told reporters Wednesday.