The Washington Post

Democrats’ attempt to negate the Hobby Lobby decision stalls in the Senate

As Democrats hit the trail in the coming weeks and encounter voters still enraged about the Supreme Court's decision on the Hobby Lobby case, their message will be short and simple:

We tried.

In a largely party-line vote, the Senate on Wednesday rejected the Democrats' attempt to negate the Hobby Lobby decision, in which the Supreme Court in a 5-to-4 ruling said closely-held companies do not have to comply with the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act, if the owners have religious objections.

The bill, which would have negated the Supreme Court's ruling by eliminating the religious exemption, fell three votes short of the 60-vote threshold to end debate. In a procedural move, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) switched his vote to "no" in order to allow him to reintroduce the legislation at a later date, leaving the final vote count at 56 to 43.

Republicans Susan Collins (Maine), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) voted with the Democrats in favor of the bill.

Reid vowed to bring the legislation up again for another vote, and Democrats were quick to note that Sen. Brian Schatz (Hawaii) was not present for the vote, meaning that if a re-vote is taken they will only need to convince two more Republicans to vote with them.

“A small number of senators chose politics over women’s health today by refusing to allow debate on this bill to move forward," said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, in a statement. "It’s encouraging that a majority of the Senate voted to ensure that all women have access to affordable contraception, and we must build on that momentum as we continue to fight for the rights of all working women.”

Democrats have made the Hobby Lobby case a major focal point in recent weeks, with top Democrats in both the Senate and the House railing against the Supreme Court decision.

"It's 2014, not 1814," declared Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.), during a passionate floor speech on Tuesday.

Republicans, meanwhile, have braced for the potential political blowback that could come from blocking the Hobby Lobby override.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took to the floor on Wednesday morning to decry the bill, as did Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).

A day earlier, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), arguably the highest profile GOP woman in Congress, said the Democrats and women's groups have distorted the Hobby Lobby decision for political gain.

"I really am disappointed that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would try to score election-year points by misrepresenting what the Hobby Lobby decision stands for," Ayotte said. "I just hope that this not-my-boss business campaign, that people understand that it's really misrepresenting that bosses will not have the authority to restrict a woman's access to contraception."

A companion bill in the House was blocked by House Republicans using a procedural vote, which drew criticism from Democratic Reps. Rep. Louise Slaughter (NY), Diana DeGette (CO) and Jerrold Nadler (NY), who sponsored the House legislation.

“This vote puts the House on record when it comes to women’s health,” the Representatives said in a statement. “The women of America should know where their representative stands. Does their member of Congress stand with bosses who seek to get between a woman and her health care needs? Or do they stand with the women of America and believe that, when it comes to their own health care, a woman should be her own boss.”

Wesley Lowery is a national reporter covering law enforcement and justice for the Washington Post. He previously covered Congress and national politics.

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