Senate Republicans said today that discussions were under way regarding a possible legislative response to President Obama's controversial contraception rule that health insurance cover birth control for women, arguing that it's not an issue of contraception but of religious liberty.
"This is unprecedented. This is not a women's rights issue," Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said, along with other Repubican leaders, at a press conference today. "This is a religious rights issue. This is a religious liberty issue."
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said the decision amounted to a "trampling of the First Amendment" and a "systematic dismantling of religious liberty for people in this country.
"It's pretty clear to me that the growth and expansion we've seen in government is leading us more toward a social welfare state that you would see in an European country," said Thune. "And I think decisions like this are also decisions that move us more in the direction of the secularization of our country and seem to me to suggest a disregard for the basic, core beliefs of a lot of the American people."
Hopes are not high among Republicans that the White House would work to overturn the Health and Human Services regulations, even if Monday the administration indicated openness to compromise.
"If you listen to what they are saying, they are just trying to change the subject and kick it down the road a year," Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said.
"The solution is for the president to say, 'You know what? Maybe we overreached, maybe we went too far. We've heard from a lot of people, and we're going to reconsider this decision," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said today.
If not, senators called on Congress to act if the administration did not.
Senate Democrats are holding their annual all-day retreat today at the Nationals Baseball Stadium in Washington, D.C. But Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of Calirornia; Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire; Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut left the retreat early to counter the Republicans' press conference with their own press conference to defend the administration's policy today.