The U.S. Senate is going to vote today on legislation that would prohibit for-profit (note FOR PROFIT) employers from denying employees health insurance coverage mandated by federal law. This would override the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed for-profit corporations to refuse to cover contraception in group health insurance policies. (Hobby Lobby refused only certain types of contraception; other corporations covered by the ruling refuse ALL types of contraception.)
Republicans are expected to block the bill. They’ve dreamed up a fig leaf — meaningless legislation that says a company may not prohibit employees from obtaining contraception on their own. Of course they can’t. A better U.S. Supreme Court than we currently endure decided that long ago and, so far, the Alito bloc hasn’t mustered votes to overturn a ruling prohibiting legal bans on contraceptives. You might as well pass a bill saying employers can’t dictate when employees may engage in intercourse.
U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor says he’ll not support a filibuster on the Democratic bill. But that doesn’t mean he’ll have to vote for the bill if 40 senators filibuster. Five Republicans would have to join Democrats to bring the bill to a vote.
Pryor does have a statement endorsing women’s access to contraceptives. It is far better than nothing, which is what Sen. John “Dr. No” Boozman is offering. He loves the Hobby Lobby ruling and says criticism of it is just “overheated rhetoric.” Not if you’re a woman denied full insurance coverage of medical needs.
Democrat-Gazette columnist John Brummett first reported a portion of the Pryor official statement on the bill this morning. Here’s what the office is now issuing:
“I believe women should control their own health-care decisions, not employers or insurance company bureaucrats. This bill allows women and their families to make health-care decisions in accordance with their own religious beliefs. Additionally, it preserves the exemption made for churches and other religious nonprofits to ensure they do not have to provide coverage that violates their religious beliefs.”
Brummett also quoted a Pryor campaign spokesman who said Pryor had agreed long ago to a debate with Republican opponent Tom Cotton on AETN later in the year. Cotton’s people have been tirelessly asserting on social media that Pryor wouldn’t debate. That’s not accurate. Pryor has not acceded to Cotton’s demand for a certain type of format.
UPDATE: It played out as expected. The procedural vote to move the bill to a vote was 56-43, but needed 60 to pass. Pryor voted for the motion. Boozman voted against it. Republicans called it a political stunt. I mean really. How could anybody be serious about full medical rights for women?
Hard to argue with this from the women’s group Ultra Violet:
The Republican party has just shown America what its 2014 agenda is all about— opposing access to birth control. Despite its wild popularity, and medical necessity for many, conservatives seem hell-bent on ending women’s access to contraception.
It is shameful and wrong that Senate Republican leaders today decided to side with corporate bosses who are exploiting loopholes and a narrow Supreme Court vote to shirk their responsibility to their workers instead of supporting the women who elected them to office and expect their rights upheld.