Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) tried to offer a bipartisan amendment to the now-pending highway bill that would reverse the rule, but Reid objected, saying it was a distraction from the underlying legislation, and that the rule has not yet been finalized in the Obama White House.
"I appreciate that the Republicans take every opportunity to never miss an opportunity to mess up a good piece of legislation," said Reid, speaking of the bill that had cleared a procedural vote by 85-11 earlier in the day. "The rule hasn't even been finalized yet. There is no final rule. Let's at least wait until there is a final rule. Everybody should calm down. Let's see what transpires."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, accompanied the amendment to the floor and decried the "odious" outcome of the president's decision.
"Republicans are trying to reaffirm that basic right [of freedom of religion]," said McConnell. "The Democrats won't allow those of us who are sworn to uphold the Constitution to even offer an amendment that says we believe in our First Amendment right to freedom of religion.
"Frankly, I never thought I’d see the day," concluded McConnell. "[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.”
But Reid hit back immediately, saying he also had never seen anything like the way Republicans were trying to bog down a good bill.
"I've never seen anything like this before either," said Reid. "Why don't we just calm down and see what the final rule is?"
HHS handed down the decision on Friday, sending shockwaves through religious circles that oppose the use of contraceptives. The rule exempts places of worship from providing such healthcare plans but does not make an exception for organizations like hospitals that are affiliated with religious institutions.