As White House advisers indicated they could potentially seek a compromise on the rule requiring many Catholic institutions to offer birth control and other contraception services as part of employee's health care coverage, Republicans on Capitol Hill today laid into the president.
"The Obama administration's decision to force religious hospitals, charities, and schools to comply with the mandate that violates their religious views is abhorrent to the foundational principles of our nation," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor this evening. "No one in the United States - no one - should ever be compelled by their government to choose between violating their religious beliefs and being penalized for refusing. Yet that's precisely what this mandate would do."
McConnell said the ruling should send a "chill up the spine" of people of all faiths and even those of no faith.
"The Obama administration has crossed a dangerous line," McConnell said. "This is a huge mistake that I hope the administration is currently reconsidering. And if they don't, Congress will act."
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said that if the administration does not back down Congress will do "everything within our power to repeal it."
"If the administration doesn't take care of this administratively, I believe it will be taken care of legislatively," Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said today on the Senate floor. "When you've got bishops, when you've got church leaders, when you've got people that have spent their life dedicated to hospitals and schools and other institutions that reflect their faith principles, you can't just suddenly decide that those don't matter or they can be changed in a year."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that at today's weekly policy luncheon the Senate Democrats had a "good discussion about this issue."
"The caucus totally supports the president," Reid said.
Later Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., admitted that at least one Democrat in the room raised questions about the new rule: Sen. Bob Casey from Pennsylvania.
Multiple Democratic senators, mostly women, took to the Senate floor this evening, coordinating their floor speeches to follow one another, to defend President Obama's decision on contraceptives.
"The policy represents one of the greatest advances for women's health in decades. Sadly, there's an aggressive and misleading campaign to deny this benefit to women," said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. "I applaud the president for his decision and for putting women's health above politics."
"I believe women in this country deserve respect. Some of them don't want access to birth control. They have a religion that dictates their views and they have every right to make that decision. And others decide that they need to have access to birth control," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said.