Dems rebuke GOP for trying to attach birth-control exemption to highway bill

Senate Democrats on Tuesday sharply criticized Republicans for trying to attach a contraception measure to a transportation bill.

Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerHillicon Valley: Ocasio-Cortez clashes with former Dem senator over gig worker bill | Software engineer indicted over Capital One breach | Lawmakers push Amazon to remove unsafe products Ocasio-Cortez blasts former Dem senator for helping Lyft fight gig worker bill Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates MORE (Calif.) and other Democrats blasted the proposal from Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntOvernight Health Care: Cigarette smoking rates at new low | Spread of vaping illness slowing | Dems in Congress push to block Trump abortion rule GOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Alcohol industry races to save tax break by year-end deadline MORE (R-Mo.), which would broaden the exemption to the requirement that employers cover contraception in their healthcare plans. 

Boxer said GOP leaders are simply trying to keep the controversy alive following President Obamas revision of the rule last week.  

We shouldnt have to consider or debate it, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said at a news conference. 

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Blumenthal said the Blunt amendment would be unconstitutional if it ever became law.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary Bottom Line Lobbying world MORE (D-Nev.) last week blocked the GOPs attempt to offer the Blunt proposal as an amendment. Boxer said shes confident the amendment will fail, but added that the debate is a distraction from a highway bill that would create jobs.

The White House on Friday announced a new policy under which employers with religious objections to birth control will not have to cover it, but their employees will still be able to obtain contraception directly from the insurance companies. The move has mollified some critics of the administrations initial policy, which would have required all employers, other than churches, to provide the coverage directly.

But the changes did not win over Senate Republicans, who said the mandate is still an infringement on religious liberty.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families On The Money: Trump appeals to Supreme Court to keep tax returns from NY prosecutors | Pelosi says deal on new NAFTA 'imminent' | Mnuchin downplays shutdown threat | Trump hits Fed after Walmart boasts strong earnings MORE (Ky.) said over the weekend that he wishes to quickly move a bill to repeal the coverage mandate, and that the controversy will last until Obama backs down. 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also opposes the revised mandate. 

Opponents said the only acceptable solution is a proposal such as Blunts, which would let individual employers opt out of coverage mandates based on their personal beliefs, even if their businesses arent affiliated with a religious institution.

Blunts amendment could have dramatic consequences, Boxer and her Democratic colleagues said.

It is extreme. It is dangerous, said Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenators press FDA tobacco chief on status of vaping ban Retirement bill blocked in Senate amid fight over amendments Senate Democrats call on White House to abandon plan to collect DNA from migrants MORE (Wash.), chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. It puts politics between women and their healthcare.

— This story was updated at 1:30 p.m.