Senate GOP pushes to shield faith groups from contraception rule

Senate Republicans are pushing legislation to overturn the Obama administration’s decision that the health plans of faith-based organizations must cover contraception if they serve people of multiple religious backgrounds.

Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump faces difficult balancing act with reelection campaign Republicans wary of US action on Iran California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth MORE (R-Fla.), Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan The Hill's Morning Report - Can Trump save GOP in North Carolina special election? MORE (R-Mo.) and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteGOP fears Trump backlash in suburbs Trump makes rare trip to Clinton state, hoping to win back New Hampshire Key endorsements: A who's who in early states MORE (R-N.H.) are leading the effort.

“This is about whether the government of the United States should have the power to go in and tell a faith-based organization that they have to pay for something that they teach their members shouldn’t be doing,” said Rubio.

“I hope that the Senate and the House will act on it as well because the American people are asking us to,” he said.

Rubio became aware of the issue while attending a church service where an officiant read a letter from the Catholic archdiocese opposing the administration’s decision. Rubio told his staff the next day to draft legislation to exempt faith-based organizations from the new mandate.

"What the administration has done is really unprecedented," said Ayotte. "I would call on the president to overturn these Health and Human Services regulations, to stop [his attacks] on religious freedom and to really change the direction of what we have seen."

Blunt unveiled in August a broader bill to shield religiously affiliated organizations from having to provide services that contradicted their teachings. Rubio and Ayotte co-sponsored Blunt’s bill.

The lawmakers are deciding how to put together a unified legislative response to the Obama administration

“The short answer is we’re discussing the appropriate response. The three senators you’ve heard from are involved in those discussions,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers run into major speed bumps on spending bills Budowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet MORE (Ky.) told reporters.

McConnell and other Republicans will try to offer their bill as an amendment to legislation on the floor.

House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBoehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader Scaramucci compares Trump to Jonestown cult leader: 'It's like a hostage crisis inside the White House' MORE (R-Ohio) said Wednesday Congress would repeal the regulation on contraception.

A Senate Republican aide said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) would draft a House companion to the Rubio legislation.

“What we’ve seen in this administration now is the trampling of that First Amendment protection and a systematic dismantling of religious liberty for people in this country. We believe the president and hopefully his administration will walk back from this,” said Senate Republican Conference Committee Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet NRA says Trump administration memo a 'non-starter' Trump administration floats background check proposal to Senate GOP MORE (S.D.).

Administration officials have emphasized the policy provides an exemption for churches and houses of worship.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that the president would try to “allay some of the concerns expressed.”

—Amie Parnes and Julian Pecquet contributed to this report.