In a fairly close vote of 51 to 48, the Senate shot down a Republican amendment last Thursday that would have exempted employers from providing any health care coverage that conflicted with their conscience or religious beliefs.
Called the “conscience” or Blunt amendment, the proposal was developed by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). It expanded upon a recent accommodation by the Obama administration that let religiously affiliated organizations—like Catholic charities, schools, or hospitals—refuse to provide contraceptive coverage.
The contraception debate has been viewed by many as a Democratic win and as a more of a weak spot for the Republican campaign.
“It was never going to become law,” said Gary C. Jacobson, a professor of political science at UC San Diego. “It was used as political statement in an attempt to embarrass the administration.”
With Obama holding veto power as president, the Blunt amendment was never realistically going to be enacted. And if a Republican wins the election in November, they will be much more focused on completely dismantling the health care program so this proposal will be “irrelevant,” Jacobson said in a phone interview.
“It’s part of the campaign,” he said. “It’s an attempt to whip up the emotions of the anti-abortion crowd, which is an important part of the Republican base, to mobilize them against Obama.
“But I think it’s helped the administration because it went much further than just saying religious organizations didn’t have to dispense medicine,” Jacobson continued. “It was far broader and more radical than simply protecting religious beliefs. And I think that radicalism feeds a storyline that the administration will use during the campaign: that the Republican party has been taken over by tea-party crazies and right-wing radicals.”