The Blunt Amendment; Or, the Contraceptives Issue Turns

The dial started to turn on the contraceptives issues three days ago, when Mitch McConnell explained the coming Republican strategy to Bob Scheiffer.

SCHEIFFER: And Senator Blunt from Missouri, one of your Republican colleagues, he wants an amendment now that would allow any group that had a moral objection to this, to not have to pay for birth control pills. Are you willing to go as far as Senator Blunt wants to go on this?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Yeah, it’s not a moral objection. This is about the free exercise of religion. And under our constitution, you don’t take a poll to find out how people feel about a constitutional freedom…

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, I– I guess what I’m asking you though is– is are you willing to go as far as Senator Blunt now wants to go and just write in legislation that would ban any group that had just a, quote, “moral objection,” not just a religious group but just any group that had a moral objection to that? Would– would you be willing to push that in the Senate?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Yeah. You know if– 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.

He’d committed Republicans to a “solution” on contraceptives that would stripped back the mandates, way back, to less than their pre-Obamacare stricture. Adam Serwer has a good explanation here, pointing to the Blunt bill language that lets a provider off the hook for any “religious beliefs or moral convictions.” Not to be too patronizing or anything, but the Constitution prohibits any bill establishing or restricting religious beliefs. Morals, though – that’s not in the Constitution, and that could mean anything. This creates an opening for Democrats. Greg Sargent talks to Elizabeth Warren, who walks right through it.

“I am shocked that Senator Brown jumped in to support such an extreme measure,” Warren told me by phone just now. “This is an all new attack on health care. Any insurance company could leave anyone without health care, just when they need it most… This is an extreme attack on every one of us. It opens the door to outright discrimination. It would let insurance companies and corporations cut off pregnant women, overweight guys, older Americans, or anyone — because some executive claims it’s part of his moral code. Maybe that wouldn’t happen, but I don’t want to take the chance.”

And this is how Republicans can lose control of the issue.