The contraception coverage legislation that divided the Senate Thursday also split the candidates in Virginia’s marquee U.S. Senate race, as former governors Timothy M. Kaine and George Allen came down on opposite sides of the issue.
The Senate voted 51 to 48 to table an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), that would have rolled back the Obama administration’s health coverage rule by allowing insurance companies and employers to opt out of covering prescriptions, such as contraceptions, or procedures they object to on religious or moral grounds.
Nearly every Democrat opposed Blunt’s amendment, and nearly every Republican backed it, and Kaine (D)and Allen (R) followed their parties.
“I urge the Senate to reject this far-reaching amendment that creates a broad loophole to deny any preventive service to any employee – man or woman,” Kaine said in a statement Thursday morning. “This is a slippery slope that rolls back the promise of full preventive health care and removes consumer protections that prevent discrimination.”
Allen supports the Blunt amendment, campaign spokeswoman Katie Wright said, suggesting that the issue illustrated the larger flaws in Obama’s health-reform bill..
“While George Allen does not support banning contraceptives, Americans in this instance should not be forced to choose between following a government mandate or adhering to their own deeply held religious beliefs,” Wright said. “The fact that we are even having this discussion shows the serious problems Obamacare imposes on Virginia families and small businesses, and it’s another reason Tim Kaine should listen to the people of Virginia who want to see it repealed and replaced.”
The Blunt amendment is only the latest of the state and federal social policies that have become issues in Virginia’s neck-and-neck Senate contest.
Last week, Kaine told reporters that two bills being considered by the Virginia General Assembly — one declaring that life begins at conception, and one requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before getting an abortion — were “bad for Virginia’s image.”
Kaine opposed both measures. Allen backs so-called personhood legislation on conception on both the state and federal level, but he has steadfastly declined to take a position on the ultrasound measure.
Virginia Democrats have accused Allen of ducking the issue.The state party issued a release Thursday morning suggesting that the former U.S. senator and governor was “scared to talk about women’s health.” The Allen campaign says Democrats have been using social issues as a way to distract attention from jobs and the economy.