GOP leadership now supporting bill that would allow all employers to deny coverage for contraception

The Blunt amendment would “ensure that health care stakeholders retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions” under the Affordable Care Act. Marco Rubio has already filed similar legislation.

Though supporters of the president's original proposal say the issue is about contraception and women's health, critics like McConnell say it's all about the First Amendment (incidentally, there were no women discussing the topic on the five Sunday shows).

“The fact that the White House thinks this is about contraception is the whole problem. This is about freedom of religion, it’s right there in the First Amendment. You can’t miss it — right there in the very first amendment to our Constitution,” McConnell said. “What the overall view on the issue of contraception is has nothing to do with an issue about religious freedom."

Other Republicans who spoke on Sunday, such as Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, also were having none of the compromise that the White House is selling regarding the topic. Ryan spoke on ABC's This Week program.

RYAN: It's a distinction without a difference. It's really an accounting trick. It forces the insurance company that they have to pay to do the coverage. So instead of making the institution itself, it reinforces the insurer. And a lot of these Catholic institutions are self-insured, and all insurers under this rule must provide these mandated benefits. So it really is a distinction without a difference. This should be rescinded, not compromised like this, because I would, again, say it's not a compromise. The president's doubling down.

Speaking up for President Obama and doing the full Ginsburg by appearing on all five Sunday shows was Jack Lew, recently named to replace William Daley as chief of staff.

Ostensibly booked on all of the shows to discuss the president's budget (formally introduced on Monday), Lew was the point man on this issue that the media is absolutely salivating about, as it's obviously more fun to discuss than, well, the budget.

More used to talking economics, Lew stuck to his talking points, despite the fact that every moderator who interviewed him tried desperately to go off of them. He insisted that the compromise should end the issue. But Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace told him it wasn't though.

WALLACE: But you say you're not going to get universal support. There are others — this is the conference of Catholic bishops. This is the most powerful statement by the Catholic Church in this country. They deal with grave moral concern and they say it should be turned around.

LEW: I can't speak to the differences within the Catholic Church.

WALLACE: How do you respond to their statement that this is government coercion?

LEW: I would point to the statement put out by the Catholic Health Association, which knows a fair amount about what it requires to health care in this country. They thought this was a very good solution. They understand what the policy is.

WALLACE: So, the bishops —


LEW: I think our policy is the right policy. I think that there's broad support, but they're not universal support for it. And we think this is right way to go.

WALLACE: So, you're not going to change despite what the bishops say.

LEW: Our policy is clear.

WALLACE: Your policy is clear. Meaning, no revisions to the revisions?

LEW: We have set out our policy.

WALLACE: And that's it?

LEW: We're going to finalize it in the final rules. But I think what the president announced on Friday is a balanced approach that meets the concerns raised both in terms of access to health care and in terms of protecting religious liberties. And, you know, we think that that's the right approach.

After a week of white-hot controversy that cable news bookers have thoroughly enjoyed, President Obama announced on Friday that his administration was offering a compromise (which critics call an accommodation) on offering employees of Catholic hospitals, universities and service agencies contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plans, saying the insurance companies, and not the institutions, would pay for that coverage.

But Friday night the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops rejected the compromise, as did every Republican who graced the airwaves on Sunday morning public affairs programming.

And now there's legislation sponsored by Missouri Republican U.S. Senator Roy Blunt that permits any employer to deny birth control coverage in its health insurance plan, a move that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell supports.

"If we end up having to try to overcome the president’s opposition by legislation, of course I’d be happy to support it, and intend to support it,” McConnell said Sunday on CBS's Face The Nation. “We’ll be voting on that in the Senate and you can anticipate that that would happen as soon as possible.”


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