Now that Obama has reached an accommodation on birth control that has won some support on both sides of the debate, could it now become a wedge issue against the GOP, as I speculated the other day?
Mitch McConnell vowed over the weekend to turn the battle against Obama’s proposal into a crusade that won’t end until the White House backs down. But as Igor Volsky notes, two GOP Senators — Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins — have voiced cautious support for Obama’s compromise, breaking with the idea that it’s an assault on religious liberty.
Snowe: “It appears that changes have been made that provide women’s health services without compelling Catholic organizations in particular to violate the beliefs and tenets of their faith.”
Collins: “While I will carefully review the details of the president’s revised proposal, it appears to be a step in the right direction...The administration has finally listened to the concerns raised by many and appears to be seeking to avoid the threat to religious liberties posed by its original plan.”
Make no mistake: This dynamic will be crucial going forward. If more Republicans decide that Obama’s proposal is politically or substantively difficult to attack, it could encourage Dems to express greater unity behind the plan, and further marginalize opponents of it, making it tougher to continue this fight.
So where are Senators like Kelly Ayotte, Lisa Murkowski, and Scott Brown on this? A spokesman for Murkowski declined comment. It’s hard to imagine Brown, who’s facing a tough challenge from Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, voicing opposition to the idea — as McConnell put it over the weekend — that requiring insurers to cover birth control as a health care expense for women constitutes interfering “with your religious beliefs.”
Also: What vehicle will Republicans support? Will they back the amendment offered by GOP Sen. Roy Blunt, which would allow either employers or insurers to deny any health coverage they find morally objectionable, at a time when polls show that requiring employers to cover birth control is backed by nearly six in 10 independents and nearly seven in 10 women?
UPDATE: Senator Ayotte has just come out against Obama’s proposal. Here’s her statement, sent over by her office:
“The president’s proposal leaves religious institutions vulnerable to federal coercion. This debate has always been about religious freedom. As I fight for a full repeal of Obamacare, I will continue to push for a legislative solution that protects conscience rights.”
UPDATE II: Here’s the response from John Donnelly, a spokesman for Senator Scott Brown:
“Senator Brown appreciates President Obama’s willingness to revisit this issue, but believes it needs to be clarified through legislation. The senator signed onto bipartisan legislation that writes a conscience exemption into law, which is an important step toward ensuring that religious liberties are always protected.”
UPDATE III: Brown spokesman Donnelly confirms that the Senator supports GOP Sen. Blunt’s legislation.