Two of President Obama’s top advisers — both Catholics — warned him of the potential fallout from his controversial mandate requiring religious organizations to cover the cost of contraceptives in their employee’s health insurance plans.
Vice President Joe Biden and former White House chief of staff Bill Daley both told the president that the decision would be cast as a government intrusion on religious freedom and that it could alienate Catholic voters in swing states, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. The decision has whipped up a frenzy of criticism for the president that he’s been battling since the move went public.
Biden, the first Catholic to serve as vice president, isn’t known for being reticent. But he hasn’t yet spoken publicly about the Jan. 20 decision. His office declined to comment.
The advice coming from Biden and Daley also represented a division among the president’s top advisers, with a group of top women all urging the president to not create an exemption for religious organizations. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, also a Catholic, led the charge, and was backed by several others, including senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and then-Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes.
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that some reports about who supported the president’s decision are “inaccurate,” but didn’t clarify whether he was referring to Biden and Daley or others.
The White House indicated Tuesday that it might agree to some modifications in the rule that would give employers flexibility.
Politico points out also that Catholics made up more than a quarter of the 2008 electorate and that they voted for Obama over Sen. John McCain 54 percent to 45 percent.