Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked a Democratic attempt to pass legislation that would force companies to provide all forms of contraceptive coverage to their employees, regardless of their religious beliefs.
Democratic leaders sought to advance the Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act, a bill aimed at undoing the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.
In Hobby Lobby, the Court ruled that the Obamacare law and its related regulations cannot compel closely held or family-owned companies from providing certain kinds of contraceptive coverage if doing so violates the owners’ religious beliefs. The religious family that owns Hobby Lobby had opposed four of the 20 contraceptive drugs and devices because they could cause abortion.
Just days later, Democrats proposed their legislation in an attempt to legislate around that ruling. While the Court insisted its ruling is narrow and only applies to some contraception methods and some companies, Democrats have insisted that the ruling is an attack on women’s rights.
“The Supreme Court got it wrong,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor.
Another Democratic supporter of the bill, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), warned on the floor that women around the country would be watching to see how Republicans vote.
But most Republicans ignored that, and voted against advancing the bill. The bill needed 60 votes to advance, but the final vote was 56-43, effectively killing it in the Senate.
Only three Republican senators voted with Democrats: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Mark Kirk (Ill.), and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).
Republicans have said Democrats are trying to politicize a ruling that balances the rights of women to use contraception with the right of closely held companies not to provide contraception that could cause abortion.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) argued before the vote that no one is in favor of blocking women’s access to contraception, but the issue is how to balance that right with religious freedom.
“Nobody, nobody, nobody is talking about restricting access to contraceptives,” Cruz said. “What we are talking about is the feral government using brute force to force people to pay for abortion-inducing drugs of others against their religious faith.”
Cruz also indicated that his own family is benefits from the use of contraception.
“My wife and I are blessed with two little girls,” he said. “I’m very glad we don’t have 17.”
Earlier in the day, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) challenged Democrats to support a Republican alternative bill that reaffirms both the right to contraception and religious rights. But so far, only Republicans are on that bill.
Immediately after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tweeted, “We are going to vote again on this issue before the year is out.” But it seems unlikely the result would be any different, which will likely lead to GOP charges that Democrats are holding the votes to score political points with voters.