While Chris Matthews may hove gotten that thrill up his leg in the past for Barack Obama, as a Catholic he's pretty fired up over the president's mandate that faith-based employers provide contraception. How upset? He was bold enough to scold a New York Magazine reporter for using a White House talking point to defend the mandate.
During a segment on MSNBC's "Hardball," reporter John Heilemann responded to one question by saying that 28 states in the country already have the mandate. Seems like a slam dunk for the president. But it's not, and Matthews caught it:
"It’s not the law of the land," Matthews snapped when Heilemann brought up the argument. "The law, those requirements are not the same as this. I’ve gone through this. That’s what the White House is putting out. Get that established independently of the White House. Just do that, because there’s co-pays involved and it’s different."
So why isn't it a slam dunk? It is true that 28 states have the requirement. But as Matthews correctly notes, many of those laws include caveats, unlike the federal mandate. The National Catholic Reporter has more:
Currently, 28 states have laws requiring contraceptive coverage as part of health plans. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 20 of those states offer some type of exemption, a list including Arizona, New York, Maryland, Missouri and California.
Whether exemptions exist or not, Catholic groups in all 28 states can avoid the contraceptive mandate in one of three ways, says the U.S. bishops' conference. These include self-insuring prescription drug coverage, dropping that coverage completely or opting into a federal law that preempts any state mandates. Critics say the narrowness of the recent federal ruling would block religious groups from taking any of these avenues.
Kaiser Health News confirms the exemption number.
Noel Sheppard noticed that Heilmann looked pretty embarassed:
He ends his analysis with a question: "Kudos to the Hardball host, but wouldn't it be nice if nobody on MSNBC was ever allowed to echo Obama administration talking points?"