With a 51-48 vote, the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate killed a religious-freedom protection measure today.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., offered the amendment to a traffic bill in response to the ongoing national outcry against a federal mandate requiring Christian employers to offer contraception and possible abortifacient drugs in health plans.
During floor debate, Blunt said federal health programs of all kinds already respect individuals’ and groups’ religious beliefs and moral convictions.
“There is no health care law since 1973 that doesn’t have (the) provisions in this (amendment),” he pointed out
Three Democrats — Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — joined Republicans in supporting the amendment. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine was the only Republican to vote against it.
The amendment’s opponents argued that if it passed, women would lose their existing health care benefits because employers could withhold any services they find objectionable. But under the amendment, if an employer excludes a health care benefit based on religious or moral reasons, it must include a new service of equal value.
That provision “makes it much more difficult to exclude services than it is now,” Blunt said.
GOP lawmakers rarely make a stand for social issues in the Democrat-controlled Senate. But led by Blunt, who was formerly a powerful pro-family voice in the U.S. House of Representatives, several took to the floor to defend religious freedom. One was Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
“If the government is allowed to compel people to buy health care, it won’t stop there,” he said. “Now, it’s telling people what their religious beliefs are and what their religious practices ought to be. What next?”
After the vote, CitizenLink Executive Director Tom Minnery said the Obama administration is continuing to force its ideology on all taxpayers.
“Today the government, this time via Congress, again told Americans they must ‘conform or pay a price’ when it comes to their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion,” he said. “Americans are speaking out because they understand that they should not be forced to fight to protect what the Constitution already grants them under the First Amendment.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, declared the fight would continue.
“I am putting the administration on notice: I am not done with you. My colleagues are not done with you,” he said. “Whatever happens with this vote today, you are going to be held to account for your actions.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read CitizenLink’s statement on the vote.
Read the Blunt amendment.