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Reid will allow vote on repeal of administration's birth control mandate

Republicans are picking a new fight over contraception — and at least some Democrats are happy to let them have it.
 
Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidWATCH: There is no Trump-Russia collusion and the media should stop pushing this The demise of debate in Congress ‘North by Northwest,’ the Carter Page remake MORE (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that he’ll let the Senate vote on a proposal to reverse the White House’s controversial birth-control mandate. The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntRussian assault on 'American idea' enables Trump to take tough action Eleven lawmakers have used campaign funds to pay NRA dues: report Kimmel writer tweets amount NRA has given lawmakers in response to shooting prayers MORE (R-Mo.), would let employers opt out of any coverage mandates they find immoral.
 
Reid blocked a vote on the same amendment last week, before the White House had announced new “accommodations” for religious organizations. Senate Republicans pressed ahead after Obama’s announcement, despite pundits’ warnings that the party could appear to be attacking contraception rather than defending religious liberty.
 
Blunt insisted Tuesday that his proposal would simply affirm the constitutional right to freedom of religion.
 
“If that amendment passed, nobody would have a right ongoing that they haven’t had for 225 years,” he told reporters.
 
A vote on the Blunt amendment could re-expose divisions among Senate Democrats. Sens. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyDems hit stock buybacks in tax law fight Dem senator warns Mueller against issuing Russia report near 2018 election Dem praises gay US Olympian who feuded with Pence MORE Jr. (D-Pa.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPavlich: The claim Trump let the mentally ill get guns is a lie Toomey to introduce bill broadening background checks for firearms Scott Walker backs West Virginia attorney general in GOP Senate primary MORE (D-W.Va.), who opposed the original contraception mandate, haven’t taken a position on Obama’s revisions, and the Blunt measure is in line with the broader exemption endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
 
But the amendment could also energize Democrats and women’s-rights groups riding the momentum from a battle between Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Planned Parenthood and what they see as a win on the contraception compromise.
 
As quickly as the White House moved last week to tamp down the furor over original its mandate, congressional Democrats are hardly shying away from the Blunt amendment.
 
“It would allow anyone to deny any healthcare service for any reason,” Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerKamala Harris endorses Gavin Newsom for California governor Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response Billionaire Steyer to push for Dem House push MORE (D-Calif.) said at a press conference. “If I believe that prayer should cure all disease, that’s my belief, and I’m an employer, I can deny coverage for any life-saving intervention.”
 
She said the policy would let employers deny coverage for more than just contraception. Treatment and screening for sexually transmitted diseases could be affected, she said, and employers could even cut off access to mental-health services — “even if that denial results in homicide, or results in suicide.”
 
Critics focused on the fact that the Blunt bill would let employers opt out of healthcare services not just because of religious objections, but also on “moral” grounds. That standard is nearly impossible to define, they say, and could ensnare services like vaccination.


"It is extreme. It is dangerous," said Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn Murray30 million people will experience eating disorders — the CDC needs to help Mulvaney remarks on Trump budget plan spark confusion Overnight Finance: Mulvaney sparks confusion with budget remarks | Trump spars with lawmakers on tariffs | Treasury looks to kill 300 tax regs | Intel chief's warning on debt MORE (D-Wash.), who chairs Senate Democrats' campaign committee. "It puts politics between women and their healthcare."