Republican 'Conscience' Amendment Just A Ploy, Expert Says
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.
But there’s still more to come in the health care controversy.
“I think the American people are concerned about the government's infringement on religious liberty. The Senate will have its vote today, then the House will decide on how we will proceed," said House Speaker John Boehner.
The political fight over contraception hasn’t stayed within the confines of Congress either. It has become a significant topic in the presidential election.
“In general, both parties appear to see the controversy as a winning issue,” The Washington Post said in their write-up. “To Republicans, it offers a way to excite the base and paint the administration as overly intrusive and out of touch with Americans’ religious sensitivities. To Democrats, it is an opportunity to portray Republicans as willing to trample women’s rights.”
Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney faced criticism within his party when he originally said he opposed the Blunt amendment. He later explained it was a mistake, that he had misunderstood the interviewer’s question and that he does in fact support the proposal.
On the other hand, President Obama is at risk of alienating his religious supporters.
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."