Birth-Control Insurance Bill Rejected by U.S. Senate

July 16 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Senate turned back a Democratic proposal requiring for-profit companies to provide workers with insurance coverage for birth control even if the employer has religious objections.

Senators voted 56-43, with 60 required, not to advance the measure, which seeks to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving the craft-store chain Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. Democrats say the court’s decision grants some employers unfair say over women’s health care.

“Women should call the shots when it comes to their health-care decisions: Not their boss, not the government, not anyone else -- period,” Senator Patty Murray of Washington said yesterday in a floor speech. After today’s vote, she told reporters, “We are going to continue the fight.”

Three Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mark Kirk of Illinois, joined Democrats in voting to advance the measure. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, voted no to preserve his ability to bring the bill up again.

“We are going to vote again on this issue before this year is out,” Reid said at a news conference after the vote.

Religious Grounds

In the June 30 Supreme Court decision, the justices ruled 5-4 that closely held companies can refuse on religious grounds to provide employees with contraceptive coverage.

The birth-control rule stems from the 2010 Affordable Care Act’s requirement that any insurance coverage offered by employers meet minimum standards. President Barack Obama’s administration contends that contraceptive coverage is crucial to women’s health and well-being.

Senate Democrats developed the legislation in consultation with the Obama administration.

Republicans accused Democrats of threatening employers’ religious liberty in an attempt to distract from harm to women that Republicans say is caused by the health-care law, known as Obamacare.

“When it comes to decisions about contraception, both parties believe a woman should be able to make her own decisions,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said today on the Senate floor.

McConnell and fellow Senate Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Deb Fischer of Nebraska introduced a measure that he said today specifies that “an employer cannot block an employee from legal access to her FDA-approved contraceptives.”

Women Voters

Democrats are trying to woo women voters -- especially single ones -- before the November election. The party, which controls 55 Senate seats in the 100-member chamber, is trying to stave off a Republican takeover.

Democratic Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, who drafted the measure with Murray, is seeking a second term in November.

With Republicans expected to maintain their U.S. House majority, a net gain of six seats would put them in charge of the Senate and give the party control of both chambers of Congress for the last two years of Obama’s presidency.

House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, praised the Supreme Court’s ruling in a July 1 statement.

The “decision is a victory for religious freedom and another defeat for an administration that has repeatedly crossed constitutional lines in pursuit of its big government objectives,” Boehner said.

The Senate bill is S. 2578.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kathleen Hunter in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at Laurie Asseo

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