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The week after: Continuing the HHS discussion

Last week President Obama revised the HHS mandate on contraception, and the Morning Joe panel discussed the issue today.If you tuned into "Meet the Press" yeste

Last week President Obama revised the HHS mandate on contraception, and the Morning Joe panel discussed the issue today.

If you tuned into "Meet the Press" yesterday, you saw the Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan, the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne and Joe Scarborough discuss the issue with David Gregory. Today, Noonan, Dionne and Scarborough continued the discussion, and Scarborough again issued his warning to the GOP.


Scarborough [to Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne]: You think the president did the right thing and did enough to move beyond the issue.

Dionne: We progressive Catholics, like conservative Catholics, were upset about the original rule because it didn’t give any leeway to all the Catholic groups that do amazing work around the country. Catholic charities, Catholic hospitals, people who work with immigrants or inner city school kids, and the original rule basically said this is not really religious activity so there’s no exemption. Well, for goodness sake these people are doing this work because they are inspired by the gospel. So we were very critical of the president. But there are two legitimate issues here. One is the desire of the administration – and I think most Americans – to make sure health care plans cover contraception. That’s a legitimate goal. The other is: How do you get that coverage to them without forcing religious institutions, notably Catholic ones, not to have to violate their consciences, their church teachings by financing something they think is morally wrong? …I hope my more conservative Catholic friends look at this experience and say ‘Ok, my word. The church has a lot of support outside and inside because of all this extraordinary social justice work it does. Let’s talk a little more about that and not have people think that the only thing Roman Catholicism cares about are a few issues like abortion and now contraception.

Scarborough: So E.J., is it safe to characterize your view on this controversy is to say that last week this was a freedom of religion issue, but this week it’s more about contraception?

Dionne: I do think politically that’s true, and I think that to the extent…that it’s a fight about religious freedom, the administration was very vulnerable. Now that it’s about contraception, I think those this part of contraception – I guess that includes my church – are on the vulnerable political side, but we’ll still have arguments about religious freedom.

Peggy Noonan: We have survived as a church 2,000 years disagreeing on things. We've always had internal wars; they'll continue. I am not as sanguine as E.J. is about the president’s solution to the problem. I think what the president did on Friday was come forward with…an attempt to put out the fires that he had started. Therefore, it was a political solution.

Scarborough: My warning last week was to the Obama administration. This week it’s to the Republicans and the Republicans in the House. They need to be very careful about how they push forward on this issue. Because if it stops being about freedom of religion and starts being about contraception, then Republicans will get routed in swing areas…