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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 02/16/2012

Scott Brown struggles to refight old culture war with Elizabeth Warren

Here’s a good place to start if you want to get a sense of how the full-fledged GOP embrace of the Blunt amendment could play in Congressional and Senate races.

Late yesterday, Scott Brown — who is under fire from Elizabeth Warren over the issue — went on a New England TV station and faced an absolutely brutal grilling from his questioner, forcing him to repeatedly dissemble about the legislation.

You can watch video of the interview here. The reporter repeatedly pointed out that the measure goes much further than just exempting religious organizations from covering contraception; it also allows employers and insurers to refuse to cover any health service they find morally objectionable. Brown repeatedly insisted that the bill doesn’t do this.

“You acknowledge that Senator Blunt’s amendment that you’re supporting goes far further than religious objections, no?” The reporter asked.

“No, I don’t,” Brown answered, adding that “one of the cornerstones of our Constitution” is “to allow for religious freedoms.”

The reporter then increduously pointed out that the bill also allows for denial of coverage due to “moral conviction,” and pressed Brown again and again.

“That’s the language,” the reporter said. “I’m repeating it verbatum, Senator Brown.”

“I disagree with your interpretation,” Brown said. “It’s very clear that this is about the ability for religious groups — churches, universities who want to practice their faith in adherence to our Constitution.”

The Obama policy that Warren has embraced — and that the Blunt amendment would undo — specifically exempts Catholic institutions like those cited by Brown from having to provide or pay for contraception coverage.

Perhaps the most telling moment of all was when Brown said of Warren: “I’m shocked that she would be so divisive to pit women against their faith and their church.” He accused Warren of an “attack” on Catholics.

Republicans like Brown are desperate for this battle not to be about women’s health or the health care economics of familes, as Warren is framing it, and want to fight it exclusively on old culture war turf by alleging a war on religion. After all, polls suggest that large majorities, including of independents and moderates, see it as the former.

Oh, by the way: Brown took a hammering today on this issue from two high-profile female columnists. “What is Senator Scott Brown thinking?” asked The Boston Globe’s Yvonne Abraham. “Brown’s strategists might have misjudged things here.” The Boston Herald’s Margery Eagan bluntly claimed that Brown has “sided with nuts.”

But with conservative groups gearing up to make this a major crusade, it looks like even “moderate” Republicans are going to get sucked into this vortex.

By  |  11:30 AM ET, 02/16/2012

 
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