Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D-KY) is hitting Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) hard with a new ad taking aim at his overall character — when it comes to the basics like troop funding, the VA and the farm bill, Mitch McConnell has been MIA, they say.
First we learn Mitch McConnell skipped hundreds of committee meetings. Where was he?
He didn’t show up to vote on troop funding, the farm bill, and the VA … on days he found time for a lobbyist fundraiser and was on two TV shows.
Skipped a meeting on rural jobs but toasted the Chinese Vice President for “China’s great achievements.”
And the rest of the time, he created gridlock.
30 years is long enough.
This ad is a solid connect for the Grimes campaign. It lays out a very simple narrative that McConnell has not been focused on issues that matter to most people, on both sides of the aisle. On basic matters of character like funding our VA and troops, McConnell couldn’t be bothered to show up, sometimes because he was busy making a TV appearance or hang with lobbyists.
Several of these votes McConnell missed were “mark ups”. A mark up is an important part of the legislative process, in which members amend and rewrite proposed bills. McConnell missed mark up votes on some pretty big issues, like the VA, homeland security and the farm bill and he missed votes on troop funding.
Some DC politicians operate under the idea that it’s their job to make TV appearances and hype up their party’s talking points rather than be an actual part of the legislative process. In the past few years, it’s almost become comical with Republicans appearing on TV to demand information that is being released in a hearing or committee meeting that they are missing in order to appear on TV and demand said info.
So it is with McConnell, who has been in DC for 30 years and managed to focus most of his energy on his own rise in power as a party leader and in latter years, obstructing every breath President Barack Obama takes. McConnell is the 10th richest senator, according to the Center for Responsive Politics and in 2012, his estimated worth was $22.8 million. While there’s nothing wrong with being wealthy, McConnell behaves legislatively like he has been negatively impacted by the entitlement.
The Republican Senate Minority Leader has voted against raising the minimum wage 17 times. He has filibustered recent attempts to raise the minimum wage and has vowed to continue blocking a raise for hard working Americans. He still hasn’t managed to come up with a jobs plan for Kentucky — but then, he has made it clear that he doesn’t think it’s his job to do so.
Mitch McConnell admitted in a leaked tape that the Koch Brothers are running the Republican Party, so of course their agenda isn’t to be around for the legislative process, let alone care about our veterans or the long term unemployed, women, children, the elderly… If your name isn’t Koch, you don’t count.
Grimes spokesperon Charly Norton charged in a statement that Mitch McConnell puts himself above Kentucky families, “After 30 years in Washington, Mitch McConnell clearly cares more about himself and his party than Kentucky families. McConnell has even confessed that his national party ‘takes precedence’ over issues important to Kentucky and he doesn’t have time to show up to work. The people of Kentucky deserve better than a Senator who can’t help save their jobs because he doesn’t show up to his own.”
The problem for Mitch McConnell in this very tight Kentucky Senate race is that while he has Koch money to buy endless misleading ads, it’s so easy to target him with his relentless failures for the people as a Senator. The Grimes campaign has managed to quickly sum up why Kentuckians should ditch Mitch.
#NCSen, #MNSen, #ARSen, #LASen, #IASen, #AKSen: Tea Partiers Swallow Their Pride To Defeat Democrats In November
On Wednesday the Tea Party Express sent out an email calling on supporters to help “Defeat Harry Reid’s Sinister Six.” Hagan was listed alongside Sens. Mark Begich (D-AK), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Al Franken (D-MN), Mark Pryor (D-AR), and Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA), the Democratic Senate candidate in his state. The Republican primaries in those states have been relatively mild with comparatively less or even no fighting between establishment and tea-party aligned candidates. North Carolina, by contrast, was one of the most heated Republican primaries in the 2014 cycle.
A day earlier the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund sent out a similar fundraising email targeting just Hagan.
"Barack Obama and his liberal Democrat allies are pouring money and campaign resources into North Carolina like crazy," Tea Party Patriots Chairman Jenny Beth Martin wrote in the email. "They are desperate to save leftist Senator Kay Hagan. Tea Party volunteers in North Carolina need our help to win this critical Senate seat."
Establishment-backed Tillis defeated Dr. Greg Brannon, another candidate in the primary, who was actually the favorite of the insurgent tea party wing of the Republican party.
In the general election the race has managed to stay competitive. The TPM Polltracker average currently gives her a 4.7 point lead over Tillis.
Rooting for an establishment candidate isn’t ideal, but trying to get supporters to defeat Hagan is better than the alternative, Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund communications director Kevin Broughton told TPM.
"Obviously Thom Tillis isn’t our preferred candidate in North Carolina but he is the one non-Kay Hagan candidate and he’s the one candidate who will be a backstop," Broughton said. "If he takes that seat then the chances of our ultimate goal that I mentioned earlier and that’s preventing a runaway rubber stamp president for two years and our chances are better Thom Tillis than Kay Hagan."
Broughton said North Carolina is just one of the races where his group would be involved going forward in the 2014 election cycle, despite the fact that tea party-favored candidates didn’t win in those states. Broughton said Iowa, where state Sen. Joni Ernst, a favorite of both the establishment and the tea party, as well as North Carolina and possibly Georgia, would be priorities.
"At the end of the day, from a conservative perspective, these Republicans are closer to our agenda than the Democrats," a top policy advisor for a top tea party-aligned group told TPM. "However, conservatives will not give them any grace period once they are elected and will hold them accountable for the promises they make on the campaign trail. We will not wait several years to wake up and realize we’ve been duped."
A GOP Senate means Obama’s executive branch nominees could face major hurdles if McConnell or his members don’t like them. Some nominees may be nonstarters; others may be subject to negotiations with McConnell. You want that nominee? Give me this.
"That’s going to create a dilemma for Obama even on executive nominees," said Ornstein. “Even for people he’d like to see leave, he will probably have to convince them to stay because there won’t be much of an opportunity to replace them. … It’s always tough in the final two years of an administration.”
The stakes rise enormously if a Supreme Court seat were to be vacated in Obama’s final two years. A Republican majority would have a big incentive to run out the clock on any Obama nominee and wait until after the 2016 election to confirm the next justice.
"A Republican Senate would complicate President Obama’s ability to fill a Supreme Court vacancy should one occur, and likely hinder him in winning confirmation of his chosen appellate court nominees," said Judith Schaeffer, vice president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, a progressive legal advocacy group.
Progressive legal advocates worry that a McConnell-led Senate would spell problems for Obama to confirm his picks for judges.
"While the progressive base is not as fervent over the courts and judicial nominations as is the conservative base, Majority Leader Harry Reid has demonstrated his understanding of the importance of these matters, and has used the last two years to help bring about a dramatic reduction in the number of vacancies," said Schaeffer. "Obviously, his power to continue in this direction would be drastically reduced if the Senate were to change hands."
h/t: Sahil Kapur at TPM
By a straight party-line vote of 54-42, the U.S. Senate defeated a constitutional amendment today that would have overruled the awful Citizens United decision.
All five Senate Democrats whose support was unknown ended up voting “yes,” whereas even Republican Susan Collins voted “no.”
This was one of the last votes the Senate will take, before they adjourn for the election season—where the Koch brothers will pour millions of dollars into attack ads to fool voters.
In other words, the fact that every Democrat sided with the people—and every Republican sided with the rich and powerful—will make this a potent campaign issue in November.
Senators Mary Landrieu, Kay Hagan, Mark Pryor and Mark Begich all voted to take back our democracy: now they will be on the receiving end of attack ads made possible by Citizens United.
Mitch McConnell led the fight to defeat this amendment, and now he’ll have to answer the Kentucky voters. While he gets a little help from his billionaire friends.
In the past few months, over 500,000 Daily Kos members signed a petition to repeal Citizens United—which has been one of our most successful issues to mobilize our readers. As part of a wider coalition that includes other organizations, over 3 million people have taken action.
Our community is engaged and energized on this issue, and I could not be more proud of all the great work you have done. Now, we must channel our efforts into making sure Senate Republicans pay the price in November.
The procedural vote was 79 in favor, 18 against.
The vote means the Senate can begin debate on the measure. But it is highly unlikely to ultimately pass the chamber as it faces fierce Republican opposition. It would need to clear another 60-vote threshold in order to end debate and come to a final vote. And that final vote would require the support of two-thirds of senators to succeed.
The measure, proposed by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), would restore the legal right of Congress to establish campaign spending limits. Approved by committee on a party line basis in July, it is one of several pre-election votes Senate Democrats are planning in an attempt to highlight the contrast between the two parties before Americans head to the polls.
Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), said Republicans are happy to debate the measure, but “to be clear, there is zero support on our side for rewriting the First Amendment to restrict free speech.”
Democrats chose to spotlight the issue because the public is on their side. Most Americans oppose the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in 2010, which wiped out limits on independent expenditures aimed at influencing elections, thereby giving rise to super PACs. Earlier this year, the same five justices ruled to further loosen campaign finance restrictions on aggregate spending by an individual to political candidates and committees in a given cycle.
In both cases, all five Republican-appointed justices voted to remove restrictions, while all four Democratic-appointed justices voted to uphold them.
McConnell, an ardent opponent of campaign finance restrictions, wrote an opinion piece for Politico magazine ahead of the vote bashing “the Democrats’ assault on free speech,” a line of attack also used by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
Progressive activists have been aggressively campaigning for the measure, viewing it as a long-term project. Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, argued that the issue would help Democrats “excite voters this November.”
h/t: Sahil Kapur at TPM
In a letter to the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, the Kentucky Democratic Party is calling for an investigation into whether Mitch McConnell used official government resources to solicit contributions to his reelection campaign.
The letter reads in part:
Mitch McConnell is no stranger to unethical behavior. In 2013,CREW summed up McConnell’s ethical issues, “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is a five-term senator from Kentucky. His ethics issues stem from his possible use of Senate staff and resources to conduct opposition research for his campaign. He was included in CREW’s 2007, 2008, and 2009 reports on congressional corruption for unrelated matters.”
Kentucky Republicans launched their own complaint against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes with the FEC that accused her of renting her campaign bus from her father at a below market rate. If this is true, the bus would be an illegal campaign gift.
Selling access to the Senate Dining Room is felonious degree of corruption. The fact that Republicans can only answer this serious charge by talking about a bus demonstrates the severity of the potential offense. None of this will be settled before Election Day, but it is extremely doubtful that the Senate Ethic Committee will get involved before November.
The Kentucky Senate race has gotten very ugly. Mitch McConnell has been corrupt for decades, but he has become so safe in his incumbency that he confidently flaunts his crimes out in the open. Republicans call President Obama a dictator and a king. They talk about impeachment for fantasy offenses, but it is their own Senate leader who is abusing his office and public resources to stay in power.
Instead of measuring the drapes in the Majority Leader’s office, Sen. McConnell deserves to be fitted for an orange jumpsuit.
President Barack Obama hinted at the possibility of an upcoming vacancy on the Supreme Court Monday during a fundraiser for Senate Democrats.
Speaking to a group of donors to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on a break from his vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, Obama said he needs Democrats to hold a majority this year to fill vacancies to the high court.
“What’s preventing us from getting things done right now is you’ve got a faction within the Republican Party that thinks solely in terms of their own ideological purposes and solely in terms of how do they hang on to power,” Obama said. “And that’s a problem. And that’s why I need a Democratic Senate. Not to mention the fact that we’re going to have Supreme Court appointments, and there are going to be a whole host of issues that many people here care about that are going to be determined by whether or not Democrats retain the Senate.”
It was not the first time Obama has tied the Supreme Court to the midterm elections, but it was the first time Obama has explicitly suggested there would be a vacancy in his final years. Two of the Court’s left-leaning justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, 81 and 75 respectively, have been facing calls from Democrats to step aside before Obama leaves office in 2017 to ensure that their seats remain occupied by liberals in the event Republicans regain the White House.
Ginsburg brushed aside calls for her retirement last month in an interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric. “All I can say is that I am still here and likely to remain for a while,” she said. Ginsburg has twice been treated for cancer while on the bench.
Obama successfully nominated Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court in his first two years in office. If Democrats lose the Senate this November, Obama would find it nearly impossible to get a Supreme Court nominee with a liberal bent confirmed.
A White House spokesperson said Obama did not have a specific vacancy in mind Monday. “The President’s comments were meant to convey the important role the Senate would play in the event of a Supreme Court vacancy,” the spokesperson said. “They were not in reference to a specific vacancy.”
BREAKING: House passes GOP's $694 million border supplemental funding bill, 223-189. The bill faces a veto threat and will not see a vote in the Senate - @frankthorpNBC
- Texas Gov. Rick Perry taps $38 million in emergency funds to pay for National Guard border deployment - @davidSrauf
WASHINGTON — The Senate passed a compromise bill allowing veterans to seek private care and adding $17 billion to the Department of Veterans Affairs to hire doctors to address long wait lists. The final vote in favor was 91-3.
The bill, which was rushed through before the August recess so it could be sent to President Obama, would require VA to make up $5 billion by taking it from other programs.
The House passed the compromise bill earlier this week.
Veterans enrolled in emergency care as of Aug. 1 who face long wait times, or live more than 40 miles from a VA facility could seek private care. It also gives VA $1.3 billion to open 27 new outpatient clinics, allows the VA secretary to fire top officials, allows veterans to qualify for in-state status for tuition at public colleges, and provides care for veterans who were sexually assaulted during their service.
It also cuts funding for VA employee bonuses by $40 million less than last year.
"The veterans of this country are entitled to quality and timely health care," Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in a statement. "This legislation will take us a long way toward making good on that promise."
Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement, “When veterans are denied care, it’s a priority deserving of bipartisan attention, and this legislation will help ensure the VA lives up to the promises that we made to our veterans. We owe them no less.”
The three senators who voted against the bill were Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.
Dear Mr. Rob Woodall, it’s YOUR party that’s holding up a bunch of bills in the House, preventing passage. #StuckInTheHouse #StuckInTheSenate
BREAKING: House Passes a Rare Bipartisan Response to the VA Scandal, The Bill Goes To The Senate, Then Hopefully To President Obama For Signature
In a rare bipartisan vote, the House approved a bipartisan compromise responding to the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill now heads to the Senate, which could pass it this week.
The House on Wednesday signed off on a $17 billion bipartisan measure responding to the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs over patient deaths and long wait times at VA medical facilities.
The overwhelming, 420-5 vote sends the bill to the Senate, which could pass it by the end of the week before lawmakers leave for their annual August recess. Five Republicans opposed the measure.
A rare compromise struck by House Republicans and Senate Democrats, the bill would allow the VA to add more doctors and facilities to reduce the backlog of veterans who served in the nation’s long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would also cut money for executive bonuses, as well as make it easier both for veterans to seek care at non-VA facilities and for under-performing top officials to be fired or demoted.
Source: Russell Berman for The Wire
Could the federal government shut down again this fall? Th idea sounds absurd on its face, especially one month before an election, and one year after Republicans took a drubbing in the polls for forcing a shutdown over Obamacare. But it could happen. Congress is currently on course for a battle to keep the federal government funded when the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. Even though the two parties agreed to a discretionary spending level of $1.014 trillion for fiscal year 2015, the appropriations process has screeched to a halt over extraneous policy issues and procedural disputes. And so a stopgap measure appears inevitable.
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said Thursday the House will consider a continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown once Congress returns from summer recess on September 8. The funding measure will probably expire in mid-November, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a deputy majority whip, told TPM.
Once Congress returns from the August recess, it’ll have a mere 10 working days to agree to a bill before the government partially shuts down. And there are two contentious issues in particular that are roped in with the CR debate.
The first is reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, which supports billions of dollars in U.S. exports and thousands of American jobs through loan guarantees and other products. Its charter expires on Oct. 1, and many House conservatives, including incoming Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), are enthusiastic about shutting the bank down, bashing it as an emblem of corporate welfare and crony capitalism. Senate Democratic leaders recognize that and may force the issue by attaching renewal of the bank to their CR.
"Well, the thing we’d like to do is pass a long-term approval of the Export-Import Bank but we certainly don’t want to let it expire. We’re weighing all options," New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, told TPM when asked if leadership will attach Ex-Im to the CR.
Passing such a bill through the Senate shouldn’t be a problem. Democrats broadly support Ex-Im renewal and a significant number of Senate Republicans do, too. “I think we do need to have an Export-Import Bank because we do need to be global competitively,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said. “We don’t want to shoot ourselves in the foot.”
The question, in that case, becomes whether House Republican leaders back down and accept such a bill. That would anger conservatives who are campaigning to shut the bank down and cost Republicans some support within their own ranks.
"I think it should be a clean CR," Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) told TPM. "I may end up opposing a CR if it has [Ex-Im] attached to it. Because I oppose the reauthorization."
The second issue is the battle over President Barack Obama’s recently proposed rules on coal-fired power plants to combat climate change. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who faces a tough reelection fight in his coal-heavy state, has aggressively fought to attach his amendment blocking the rule to appropriations legislation — an idea Senate Republicansstrongly support — and has vowed to continue offering it on all government funding measures.
The problem is Senate Republicans would arguably feel most of the pain of a government shutdown in the Nov. 4 elections, jeopardizing their chance to win the majority. So it’s unclear they’ll push the issue. With Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) promising that the amendment won’t fly in the Senate, McConnell faces a choice: filibuster government funding legislation or surrender his best opportunity to reverse the climate change rules.
McConnell will want to avoid doing anything that damages his odds of becoming majority leader in January. But his fighting words make it hard to back off.
"Everyone knows the administration’s war on coal jobs is little more than an elitist crusade that threatens to undermine Kentucky’s traditionally low utility rates, splinter our manufacturing base, and ship well-paying jobs overseas," McConnell said Thursday on the Senate floor, promising he’ll "keep fighting" for his amendment.
Portman said he’s hopeful that because both sides have agreed on how much the government should spend, “I think we can avoid a government shutdown.”
Cole, a Boehner ally, also expressed hope Congress can avert a shutdown.
"I think so," the congressman told TPM, although he added that it’s not a certainty. "Could you stumble into a bad situation? It’s always possible. But I think people are working hard to avoid that sort of thing."
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked a bill aimed at restoring free contraception for women who get their health insurance from companies with religious objections, a legislative setback for Democrats that they hope will be a political winner in November’s elections.
The vote was 56-43 to move ahead on the measure, short of the 60 votes necessary to proceed.
Democrats sponsored the election-year bill to reverse last month’s Supreme Court ruling that closely held businesses with religious objections could deny coverage under President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Republicans called the bill a political stunt aimed at helping vulnerable Democratic incumbents in the elections.
Indeed, Democrats have seized on the birth control issue as they look ahead to November with hopes of energizing voters, especially women, to preserve the party’s Senate majority. Democrats must defend more seats, and Republicans are upbeat about their prospects of gaining the six necessary to secure control, especially in GOP-leaning Southern states.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who is in a competitive re-election contest, summed up her party’s argument on the issue.
"A woman’s health care decision should be made with her doctor, with her family, with her faith, not by her employer with her employer’s faith," Shaheen said in a Senate speech.
But Republicans said that the Democratic effort was merely a move to boost struggling incumbents and that both parties support a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Democrats “think they can score political points and create divisions where there aren’t any by distorting the facts.”
McConnell joined with two Republican women, Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Deb Fischer of Nebraska, in backing separate legislation that would reaffirm current law on access to contraception and in calling for a Food and Drug Administration study on whether contraceptives could be sold over the counter without a prescription.
In one of the most closely watched races in the country, McConnell faces Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in his bid for a sixth term.
Three Republicans broke ranks with their party — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mark Kirk of Illinois — and backed the Democratic-led legislation. In a procedural move, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., switched his vote to no, allowing him to bring the measure up for another vote closer to the election.
All other Democrats backed the bill.
National statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than 99 percent of women ages 15 to 44 who have had sexual intercourse have used at least one form of contraception.
"I trust women to make their own health care decisions, and I don’t believe their employers should have a say in them," said Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, a chief sponsor of the legislation with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
Udall faces a tough race against Republican Rep. Cory Gardner in November.
In Colorado in 2008, female voters were critical to Udall’s election to the Senate, favoring his candidacy 56 percent to 41 percent while men backed him 50 percent to 46 percent, according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press and other news organizations.
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrats overall captured the female vote by double digit margins as did the party in House races — 55 percent to 44 percent — when Obama won re-election. Democrats enjoyed a slightly better edge in the 2008 elections when Obama captured his first term and Democrats maintained their congressional majority.
It was far different in the 2010 midterm elections, some eight months after Obama signed the health care law and as the tea party energized the GOP. Female voters backed Republicans 49 percent to the Democrats’ 48 percent in a low-turnout election that enabled the GOP takeover of the House.
Late last month, a deeply divided Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that requiring closely-held companies to pay for various forms of women’s contraception to which they object violates the corporations’ religious freedom. The decision marked the first time the high court had declared that businesses can hold religious views under federal law.
"Five men on the Supreme Court rolled back the clock on women in America," Murray said.
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said the court’s decision has “awakened the pro-choice majority in this country.”
In Kentucky, NARAL began a 30-second, black-and-white ad criticizing Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell for his opposition to the legislation. The tag line said, “Mitch McConnell will never do the right thing for Kentucky women.”
No surprise here sadly.
This Bill Could End State Abortion Restrictions and Safeguard Against The Erosion Of Roe v. Wade | The Nation
For years the pro-choice movement has had to battle a wide array of restrictions passed on the state level, from onerous regulations on abortion clinics to “fetal pain” bills that deliberately give women bad information about abortion procedures. In fact, from 2011 through 2013, more than 200 state laws were passed that make it harder for women to access abortion services.
But the Senate Judiciary Committee held an important hearing Tuesday on a bill that could, in one swoop, clear out most of those laws. The Women’s Health Protection Act, introduced last year by Senators Richard Blumenthal and Tammy Baldwin, enumerates many of these laws that would be expressly prohibited and keeps abortion providers from being singled out by legislation that doesn’t apply broadly to most other medical services in the state.
Republican Senators and witnesses at the hearing, as one would expect, objected strenuously to the legislation. They relentlessly brought up the case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia-area abortion doctor who repeatedly broke the law and carried out gruesome, illegal abortions. Their message was that these state laws just aim to make abortion safer and avoid more cases like Gosnell’s.
In reality, Gosnell was already operating well outside the bounds of the law and is actually a better example of what would happen were abortion to be outlawed entirely. As Nancy Northrup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, testified at the hearing, that is the real and often stated goal of these laws:
[O]pponents of women’s reproductive rights, seeking to make an end run around public opinion and the Constitution itself, have shifted their strategy. They have resorted to obfuscating their true agenda by pushing laws that pretend to be about one thing but are actually about another. They claim these laws are about defending women’s health and well-being, and improving the safety of abortion care—but they most assuredly are not. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are advanced by politicians, not by doctors, often based on model legislation written by explicitly anti-abortion groups.
When Mississippi enacted such a law in 2012, a state senator put it quite plainly: “There’s only one abortion clinic in Mississippi. I hope this measure shuts that down.” Others showed their hands as well. Lt. Governor Tate Reeves stated that the measure “should effectively close the only abortion clinic in Mississippi” and “end abortion in Mississippi” when the bill passed the state Senate. Governor Phil Bryant, in vowing to sign the bill, said that he would “continue to work to make Mississippi abortion-free.” When he actually signed it, he said, “If it closes that clinic, then so be it.” Right now, Mississippi’s sole clinic is holding on by virtue of a temporary court order.
The legislation has essentially no chance of passing this Congress, but for pro-choice advocates, presents a chance to at least go on the offensive. It also may be needed in coming months as a backstop to a potential Supreme Court decision that could severely restrict abortion access.
Many federal courts have blocked this sort of state legislation as de facto abortion bans, as Northrup noted. But legal experts are increasingly convinced the Court may take up one of these cases in the next term—and that five conservative justices could move to affirm these abortion-restricting laws and effectively hollow out Roe v. Wade. The Women’s Health Protection Act would be a simple way to neutralize that decision, should it come.
News Releases - Newsroom - HOBBY LOBBY: Murray, Udall to Introduce Legislative Fix to Protect Women’s Health in Aftermath of Supreme Court Decision - United States Senator Patty Murray
From Sen. Patty Murray (D)’s Official Senate Page:
Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Mark Udall (D-CO) will introduce the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act to restore the contraceptive coverage requirement guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act and protect coverage of other health services from employers who want to impose their beliefs on their employees by denying benefits. Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) are introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“After five justices decided last week that an employer’s personal views can interfere with women’s access to essential health services, we in Congress need to act quickly to right this wrong,” said Senator Murray. “This bicameral legislation will ensure that no CEO or corporation can come between people and their guaranteed access to health care, period. I hope Republicans will join us to revoke this court-issued license to discriminate and return the right of Americans to make their own decisions, about their own health care and their own bodies.”
"The U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision opened the door to unprecedented corporate intrusion into our private lives. Coloradans understand that women should never have to ask their bosses for a permission slip to access common forms of birth control or other critical health services,"said Senator Udall. ”My common-sense proposal will keep women’s private health decisions out of corporate board rooms, because your boss shouldn’t be able to dictate what is best for you and your family.”
“With this bill, Congress can begin to fix the damage done by the Supreme Court’s decision to allow for-profit corporations to deny their employees birth control coverage. The Supreme Court last week opened the door to a wide range of discrimination and denial of services. This bill would help close the door for denying contraception before more corporations can walk through it,” said Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Action Fund. ”As the nation’s leading advocate for women’s reproductive health care, Planned Parenthood Action Fund is committed to making sure women can get the no-copay birth control benefit that we and others fought so hard to pass and protect. No woman should lose access to birth control because her boss doesn’t approve of it.”
"Last week, we heard a collective gasp across the country as Americans everywhere tried to make sense of five male Justices on the Supreme Court deciding that our bosses could have control over our birth control in the Hobby Lobby decision,” said Ilyse Hogue, President, NARAL Pro-Choice America. “Today, we hear those gasps turn to cheers as we see champions in Congress move to right this wrong. Ninety-nine percent of American women use some form a of birth control in our lifetimes, and all medical experts agree that these remedies should be included in comprehensive healthcare. Anything less than this amounts to discrimination against women in the workplace. If there’s one thing we can agree upon more than the idea that politicians aren’t equipped to decide for us how and when and with whom we have families, it’s that our bosses are even less so. This bill is the first step in making sure those personal healthcare decision stay where they belong — in the hands of the women whose lives are affected.”
“This critical legislation will protect women’s health care services guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act and safeguard their rights,” said Marcia D. Greenberger, Co-President, National Women’s Law Center. “Women have worked for and earned the right to have their health needs covered—just as men do. This legislation makes it unmistakably clear that businesses, in the name of religion, can neither discriminate against their female employees nor impose their religious beliefs on them. Bosses should stick to what they know best—the board room and the bottom line—and stay out of the bedroom and exam room.”
Senators Murray and Udall were joined in introducing the legislation today by: Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Timothy Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Carl Levin (D-MI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Harry Reid (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Udall (D-NM), John Walsh (D-MT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
In January, Senator Murray led eighteen other Senate Democrats in filing an amicus brief in support of the government’s position in the cases of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius. The brief filed by Senator Murray and her colleagues provided an authoritative account of the legislative history and intent underlying the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Senators urged the Supreme Court to reverse the Tenth Circuit’s expansion of RFRA’s scope and purpose as applied to secular, for-profit corporations and their shareholders seeking to evade the contraceptive-coverage requirement under the ACA.
Senator Udall decried the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week to allow some employers to refuse to cover contraception as part of employees’ health insurance policies and vowed to introduce legislation to restore Americans’ freedom to make their own health care decisions without corporate intrusion. A longtime champion for Colorado women’s access to affordable health care, Senator Udall has fought to expand access to preventive health care services for women and has championed women’s rights to make their own health care decisions.
Read full bill text here.