The House Republicans may finally be starting to realize they are on the wrong side of the birth control battle. Despite the eagerness with which Senate Republicans fell in step behind the Blunt Amendment — a bill that would have allowed employers to refuse to cover contraception and other medical benefits based on moral objections — the House, on the other hand, is dragging its feet on voting up an amendment of their own.
The bill is already drafted. Dubbed the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act,” legislation has been on hold waiting for the right time to bring it out of committee. And, with a huge number of the House GOP on the bill as co-sponsors, the bill is inevitably going to pass.
So why aren’t they getting ready to vote? Sure, it won’t ever become law, but since when have congressional Republicans balked from a juicy, red meat bill that would feed their social conservative voters? Especially when it involves women’s reproductive rights? It’s not the passage of the bill they usually want as much as it is the chance to debate, to vote, and to use that vote in their campaigns during the election cycle.
It’s that pattern, and the fact that the GOP is deviating from it, that makes it clear that finally, at last, even House Republicans are recognizing that attacking contraception is one policy that will lose them more votes than they will gain. The social conservative voters are not going to vote for their congressional rivals if their representatives don’t try their best to make birth control more difficult and expensive to obtain. But among the general population, contraception coverage is highly popular, and appearing to block it has the definite potential to lose them votes.
The GOP tried to frame the debate as supporting freedom of religion, not trying to stop a family’s right to decide when to not have children. But that spin hasn’t worked, and now Republicans want a way to back out. Unfortunately for them, it looks like that may not be an option. As Politico reports, the religious right wants their vote and they want it now. “While sources in the anti-abortion movement say they still believe the House leadership is firmly in favor of the bill, the delay in voting is beginning to cause some concern. ‘There’s a frustration on our end, so we’re pushing them to set dates,’ said Tom McClusky, senior vice president of Family Research Council Action. ‘In our opinion, the sooner the better. There’s got to be a vote before … November.’”
Looks like the GOP’s stalling tactics may have to come to an end.
Photo credit: Thinkstock