Bennet rails against contraception ban, helps Dems vote it down
DENVER — Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet took to the Senate floor Thursday and decried an amendment that inserted the culture wars over contraception into a transportation bill — before joining other Democrats in voting the amendment down.
The “Blunt Amendment”, sponsored by Sen. Roy Blount, R-Missouri, sought to allow employers to opt out of providing health coverage for employees based on religious objections over contraceptive care.
The move by Republicans is a response to a recently announced rule in the health care law would have forced businesses including those affiliated to the Catholic Church to provide health-care options that included access to contraception – something the Catholic Church opposes.
President Barack Obama has offered a compromise on the rule, but conservatives say it doesn’t go far enough.
Bennet, however, took the occasion of Thursday morning’s Senate vote on the Blunt Amendment to bash Republicans for inserting the issue into an unrelated transportation bill.
“We’ve devoted extensive floor time on this amendment and lack of coverage for women’s health care in the context of a job creation bill, in the context of a transportation bill,” Bennet said. “How is this conversation relevant to job creation or to infrastructure?
“It’s not. I’ve held hundreds of town hall meetings in red parts of [my] state and blue parts of the state and I don’t remember a single time this issue, the issue that’s of concern with this amendment, has been raised by anybody — by anybody! — in three years.
“And we sit here and wonder why Congress is stuck at an approval rating of maybe 11 percent,” Bennet continued. “Maybe it’s because we’re talking about contraception in the context of a transportation bill.”
Democrats, including Bennet and Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, objected to the measure itself as being overly broad and worried that it would have offered employers cover for blocking a wide variety of healthcare services on the grounds a vague religious objection.
“It would allow any employer to deny any health service to any American for virtually any reason — not just for religious objections,” Bennet said.
Republicans vowed to keep chiseling away at the Affordable Care Act and to continue to argue that the First Amendment rights of religious groups and employers are at stake.