Senate Republicans on Thursday were blocked from offering legislation to repeal the Obama administration’s rule requiring religious organizations to provide free birth control through insurance coverage.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called the lawmakers’ efforts “senseless” and said they needed to “calm down” and wait until the controversial regulation is finalized before trying to stop it.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) tried to add an amendment that has bipartisan support to a transportation bill being debated on the floor, but Reid blocked the maneuver because he said the language was not germane to the legislation.
“I appreciate that the Republicans take every opportunity… to mess up a good piece of legislation,” Reid said.
“The rule hasn’t even been finalized yet. Let’s at least wait until there is a final rule. Everybody should calm down, let see what transpires,” Reid said.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Reid said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed that he had never seen anything like this before, but for a different reason.
“(Democrats) won’t allow those of us who were sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution to even offer an amendment that says we believe in our First Amendment right to religious freedom. I never thought I’d see the day,” McConnell responded.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in my life defending the First Amendment. But I never thought I’d see the day when the elected representatives of the people of this country would be blocked by a majority party in Congress to even express their support for it.”
Speaking to the Conservative Political Action Committee conference in Washington earlier in the day, McConnell vowed to “fight this attack on the fundamental right to religious freedom until the courts overturn it or we’ve got a president who will reverse it.”
The floor skirmish came as two key Democratic Senators publicly broke with the president to publicly oppose the rule, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida.
The White House said they would give religious institutions a year to comply with the rule, which Blunt said makes their actions “even more offensive.”
“The idea that you could change your religious beliefs in a year, or a lifetime, because some federal regulator says you need to, is unbelievably offensive in our country based on the principles that we hold most dear in the Constitution itself,” Blunt said.
Blunt said he was disappointed the Democratic leader blocked his amendment, but said this won’t be last time Republicans will try and move legislation on the floor to reverse the decision.
“I will be back,” Blunt said.