Thursday, June 21, 2018

GOP senators fail to reverse birth control rule

WASHINGTON — In an election-year battle mixing birth control, religion and politics, Democrats narrowly blocked an effort by Senate Republicans to overturn President Barack Obama's order that most employers or their insurers cover the cost of contraceptives.

The 51-48 vote Thursday killed a measure that would have allowed employers and insurers to opt out of portions of the president's health care law they found morally objectionable. That would have included the law's requirement to cover the costs of birth control.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, who this week dropped her re-election bid and cited frustration with the polarized Congress, cast the lone Republican vote to block the measure. Two Democrats up for re-election and one who is retiring voted against Obama's requirement.

Majority Democrats said the legislation would have allowed employers and insurers to avoid virtually any medical treatment with the mere mention of a moral or religious objection.

"We have never had a conscience clause for insurance companies," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. Insurers, she said, don't need an invitation to deny coverage for medical treatment. "A lot of them don't have any consciences. They'll take it."

Republicans argued that the requirement under the health care overhaul violates the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom by forcing insurers and employers to pay for contraception for workers even if the employers' faith forbids its use. Roman Catholic leaders have strongly opposed the requirement.

The Senate vote aside, the debate "won't be over until the administration figures out how to accommodate people's religious views as it relates to these mandates," said the measure's sponsor, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

Both sides protested strenuously that an issue affecting millions of Americans was being used for political gain. But virtually the entire four-day discussion in the Senate was about election-year strategy. With the presidency and congressional majorities at stake, both sides used the issue to rally their bases.

Comments

AP Top News at 4:18 a.m. EDT

AP Top News at 4:18 a.m. EDT
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pope arrives in Geneva to visit World Council of Churches

Pope arrives in Geneva to visit World Council of Churches

Pope Francis has arrived in Geneva, one of the world's first cities to adopt the Protestant Reformation, for a one-day visit to highlight the importance of Christians praying and working together
Updated: 1 hour ago
Young immigrants detained in Virginia center allege abuse

Young immigrants detained in Virginia center allege abuse

Lawsuit claims dozens of immigrant children are housed in prison-like conditions at a juvenile detention facility where guards beat children who were in handcuffs and left some young inmates nude and shivering in concrete cells
Updated: 1 hour ago
Judge appears skeptical of Trump suit against California

Judge appears skeptical of Trump suit against California

A U.S. judge appeared skeptical of some of the Trump administration's key arguments for seeking to block three California laws intended to protect immigrants, questioning the scope of federal power over immigration during a lengthy court hearing
Updated: 1 hour ago

Malaysia to go ahead with skyscraper despite stolen funds

Malaysia's government says it will not cancel a mega financial district being developed in Kuala Lumpur even though $747 million from the project has been misappropriated by the 1MDB state fund set up by former premier Najib Razak
Updated: 1 hour ago
Dig it: Archaeologists scour Woodstock '69 concert field

Dig it: Archaeologists scour Woodstock '69 concert field

This is the digging of the Age of Aquarius: Archeologists scour the site of the 1969 Woodstock music festival
Updated: 1 hour ago
New Zealand leader welcomes newborn girl 'to our village'

New Zealand leader welcomes newborn girl 'to our village'

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gives birth to daughter, posts message saying 'Welcome to our village wee one'
Updated: 1 hour ago

Imprisoned Bahrain opposition leader acquitted in spy case

A prominent Shiite cleric in Bahrain who led a now-shuttered opposition party has been acquitted of spying charges with two colleagues
Updated: 2 hours ago
Japan to scrap evacuation drills for NKorean missile threat

Japan to scrap evacuation drills for NKorean missile threat

Japan plans to suspend civilian evacuation drills it started last year while North Korea was repeatedly test-firing missiles near and over Japanese islands
Updated: 2 hours ago

Merkel visits refugee host Jordan amid migration row at home

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has begun a visit to Jordan, a major refugee host country, amid an escalating domestic conflict over migration that has shaken her coalition government
Updated: 2 hours ago