Sen. Cornyn: ‘Mandate-happy’ White House trying to silence nuns

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) assailed the Obama administration Saturday for challenging the Supreme Court order exempting religious non-profits from the Affordable Care Act’s “birth control mandate.”

The Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged, a nursing home in Colorado run by an order of nuns, won a reprieve this week from the law’s requirement that employers offer contraception as part of health coverage.

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Hours before the mandate took effect Wednesday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor handed down a stay temporarily exempting the Little Sisters — and about 200 other religious non-profits from the provision.

The Justice Department responded Friday in court papers disputing the Little Sisters' assertion that the mandate forces them to choose between violating the law or their religious beliefs. The administration argues that the regulations provide an allowance for religious non-profits to opt out of the mandate, “with a stroke of their own pen.”

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which argues the provision is vital to providing cost-free contraception services to millions of women, sprang to the administration’s defense.

“To be completely clear: The group of nuns that filed an emergency challenge to the law isn’t required to cover birth control in the first place,” Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said in a statement Friday. “Churches and religious groups are already exempt or able to opt out of providing birth control to their employees, and they have been all along.”

Cornyn countered Saturday that the administration’s push against the stay was an overt effort “to silence a group of nuns” who object to the provision.

“It’s an absurd new low for this mandate-happy Administration and an unacceptable affront to religious freedoms and fidelity,” the Texas Republican said in a scathing statement. “We should be concerned about the lengths President Obama will go to force his government-knows-best agenda on the American people.”

Cornyn, a former Texas attorney general and Texas Supreme Court justice, faces a primary challenge next year from Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas).