Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, (D-WA), during an interview on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 18, 2013.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate GOP blocks bill on contraception access

Updated
It’s been about a week since Senate Democrats unveiled their legislative response to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling: the “Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act.” Championed by Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), the bill would require insurance plans to cover birth control, just as the ACA intended, though houses of worship would be exempt and religious non-profits would be accommodated.
 
The bill was such a high priority for the Senate majority party, it reached the floor today. As Adam Serwer reported, the measure came up short against a Republican filibuster, though the margin matters.
Senate Republicans successfully filibustered a Democratic proposal Wednesday to reverse the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision holding that corporations could refuse to offer insurance coverage to their employees that covers contraception.
 
The bill was expected to fail…. Even if the bill would have passed the Senate, it would have faced an impossible road in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
There’s a companion bill in the lower chamber, but the likelihood of House GOP leaders allowing a vote on it are roughly zero.
 
Still, it’s worth appreciating the margin of today’s Senate vote. Officially, it failed on a 56-43 vote, four shy of the supermajority Republicans require for practically all legislation. But take a closer look at the roll call – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) supported the measure but had to switch his vote for procedural reasons, and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), one of the chamber’s most reliably progressive voices, supports the bill but missed today’s vote.
 
In other words, the bill had 58 supporters, including the backing of three Republicans: Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
 
Sure, 42 out of 45 Republicans blocked the contraception-access measure, which is pretty overwhelming opposition, but just two more votes would have guaranteed Senate passage.
 
Looking ahead, the question is now whether Democrats and progressive organizations will use this as a campaign issue, but how much.
 
NARAL Pro-Choice America, for example, quickly pushed an image via social media showing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) under a “breaking news” banner.
 
“Mitch McConnell & 42 senators vote for Hobby Lobby, against women,” the message reads.
 
It’s safe to say there will be similar messages unveiled between now and the midterms. If the conventional wisdom is that the Democratic base, most notably single women, tend to sit out midterm cycles, this is exactly the kind of issue that might very well make the difference between a Democratic majority on Capitol Hill and a Republican majority.
 

Contraception, Culture War, Filibusters, Hobby Lobby and War On Women

Senate GOP blocks bill on contraception access

Updated