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.
The Democrats' proposal, dubbed the "Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act," would have preserved the contraception coverage exemption for religious institutions and nonprofits, but it would have required for-profit corporations to provide their employees with insurance plans covering contraception.
The bill was being championed by Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Mark Udall of Colorado. Republicans have criticized the proposal as an attack on religious freedom -- on Tuesday they unveiled an alternative bill that would have done little more than remind women they can pay for contraception out of pocket.
In some cases, the cost of contraception can run from hundreds of dollars a year to as much as $1,000. Health insurance companies were required to cover contraception under the Affordable Care Act.
The vote Wednesday was 56-43, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voting in the negative for procedural reasons so the bill could be considered again later. Democrats abolished the filibuster for most judicial and executive branch nominations last year, but legislation still requires 60 votes in the Senate to proceed to a full vote. Only three Republican senators voted in favor of advancing the bill -- Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
"The fight against women making their own decision about healthcare rages on," Murray said at a press conference after the vote. "Republicans have shown they'll go to about any length to prevent access to our own care. They put politics between women and their healthcare."
Reid said he would hold a vote on the legislation again before the end of the year.
Even if the bill would have passed the Senate, it would have faced an impossible road in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Democrats are hoping to ride a potential backlash to the Hobby Lobby decision to improve their chances in the 2014 midterms.
Midterm electorates have in recent years been far more friendly to Republicans, and Democrats believe focusing on the decision could help motivate their base -- women voters, in particular — to turn out at the polls.