The Senate on Wednesday torpedoed a Democratic plan to reverse a recent Supreme Court ruling allowing some employers to decline to provide employees insurance coverage for some forms of birth control on religious grounds.
The bill failed to get 60 votes needed to cross a procedural hurdle, as Republicans were largely united against it. Three Republican senators voted for the bill: Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine. The bill had no hope of passage in the Republican-controlled House; Democrats tried and failed to force a vote in the House on a similar bill Tuesday.
In its June 30 Hobby Lobby decision, the court ruled that closely held companies could refuse to pay for some contraception that violated the religious tenets of the owners.
The Senate bill, introduced by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., would prohibit companies from opting out of coverage for contraception. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the court based its ruling on a law providing religious protections for individuals that "was not intended to extend the same protection to for-profit corporations."
Democrats dubbed the bill "Not My Boss's Business" and launched a social media campaign to gin up support.
GOP Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Deb Fischer of Nebraska argued in a Wednesday Wall Street Journal op-ed that Democrats are misinterpreting the ruling in order to "divide Americans and score political points in a tough election year."
The senators argue that the ruling in the case does not limit women's access to birth control but allows the family-owned company to avoid paying for certain birth control methods — in particular those that prevent maturation of a fertilized egg — that "would compromise their deeply held religious belief that life begins at conception."