Republican efforts to combat contraception access have failed rather spectacularly. After a pointless culture-war fight, the American mainstream – including Roman Catholics and self-identified Republican voters – agrees that the GOP is wrong and the Obama administration is right.
The smart move for congressional Republicans would be to simply move on to other issues, since the GOP probably can’t force a legislative change anyway. As Sarah Posner reported, that’s not, however, what’s happening on Capitol Hill today.
Republican Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, will convene a hearing [Thursday], “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?”
The lead witness is the Most Rev. William E. Lori, Roman Catholic bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty. Judging from Lori and the rest of the witness list, it’s obvious that Issa has posed what he considers to be a rhetorical question and lined up nine like-minded rhetoricians to answer it anyway.
The ostensible point of a congressional hearing is to provide lawmakers with information they need to shape public policy. In this case, Issa has invited nine “expert” witnesses to discuss contraception coverage – and all nine are men who represent religious institutions.
How many of the witnesses will offer testimony in support of the administration’s position? According to Democrats, zero. How many can speak to issues regarding contraception and/or preventive health care? Again, zero. Issa invited nine people to testify, and each of them will tell Issa exactly what he wants to hear.
Dems were initially offered a chance to have one witness testify, but when they selected a female law student at Georgetown, Republican committee staffers rejected the choice, arguing that she would only be able to speak to issues regarding contraception access – and this was a hearing about religious liberty.
Remember, there are no church-state lines being crossed with the White House policy. Churches and other houses of worship are exempt, and a compromise measure ensures that religiously-affiliated employers won’t have to pay for contraception coverage, either.
But don’t expect to hear these details at today’s committee hearing.
Update: In the 11th hour, Republicans changed the witness list and included two women who were not originally going to be part of the hearing. They were, however, part of the second panel – the original, five-person panel were all men – and of the 10 GOP witnesses who participated today, none were health care or contraception advocates.