Republican Senate candidates are staying silent on President Obama's latest changes to the birth control coverage mandate even as the policy catches flak from the religious right. Top GOP hopefuls haven't weighed in on the issue since Friday, when the administration announced new measures meant to accommodate religious groups and businesses that object to their insurance covering birth control. Republican Senate candidates failed to jump on the announcement that day, and a dozen campaigns reached individually this week all declined to comment.
The usual pattern is hard to miss: the Obama administration announces a policy, which is immediately followed by Republicans condemning the policy. Rinse, lather, repeat.
But last week, in response to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, the White House unveiled a new compromise measure that would extend contraception access to a very specific group of Americans: employees at "closely held" companies run by religious conservatives who oppose some or all forms of birth control.
Given fierce GOP opposition to President Obama's contraception policies, and the broad Republican support for the Hobby Lobby ruling, it was reasonable to expect quite a few strong reactions to the White House's latest policy, right? Wrong. The Hill ran a good report overnight.
Not to put too fine a point on this, but it's probably safe to say Republicans realize they're out of step with the American mainstream when it comes to birth control, and the issue has left the GOP terrified.
GOP strategist Ford O'Connell told The Hill this issue "could spoil an entire Senate campaign." He added that Republicans recognize that they "shouldn't be discussing birth control right now unless they can be on offense."
The DSCC's Justin Barasky responded, "What Republican candidates haven't been silent on is their unabashed support for laws that block women's access to common forms of birth control and allow employers to decide whether or not birth control should be covered as part of their health insurance."
The National Republican Senatorial Committee "did not respond to a request for comment. " Imagine that.
I should note that while Republicans are avoiding the contraception debate as if it were Ebola, the GOP's social conservative allies aren't holding back. Jonathan Cohn reported the other day that despite the Obama administration's accommodations, the religious right doesn't think the compromise goes nearly far enough.
Are the religious conservatives satisfied? Of course not. "What remains an insulting accounting gimmick does not protect the rights of Americans with sincere conscientious objections," Arina Grossu, an official with the Family Research Council, said in a release that appeared shortly after the regulation became public. "It is simply another clerical layer to an already existing accounting gimmick that does nothing to protect religious freedom because the employer still remains the legal gateway by which these drugs and services will be provided to their employees."
One wonders, of course, what the Family Research Council and its cohorts think of the silence from their Republican allies.