The introduction of the bill during ObamaCare repeal week was “not that coincidental,” Sensenbrenner said. When asked if the goal of the fine was to put religious employers out of business, he said, “I don’t know if the goal is, but that’s what the effect is.”
The congressman notes that he’s not Catholic, but even in his home state there are Lutheran institutions that would fall under the penalty if they chose not to provide certain services.
“Any religious institution that does any outreach whatsoever is going to fall under this tax unless they knuckle under to the Sebelius mandate,” he said.
“The wall between church and state ought to go both ways,” he added.
Sensenbrenner said he hasn’t gotten any reaction from the administration to his bill, and hopes that if it emerges from committee and clears the House it could eke out a majority in the Senate.
Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) all voted for the Blunt amendment. Retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) has also talked about the value of religion in life, and could conceivably vote against the fines even if he didn’t vote against striking down the mandate.
Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said before the ObamaCare repeal vote that he wanted to get members on the record about the law; in the name of religious freedom, Sensenbrenner would like to do the same.
“If somebody votes against this bill I don’t know how they go home and campaign. That isn’t going to win very many votes,” he said. “It’s the principle of religious liberty.”
While there is solid conservative backing in Congress to end these harsh penalties against religious institutions, Sensenbrenner said a groundswell is going to be needed in the form of “very vocal support of the religious community” to get a bill such as his to Obama’s desk or otherwise force a repeal of the fines.
“They are the people who are hurt the most as the religious community, and they’re going to have to step up to the plate and say this is not fair,” Sensenbrenner said.
It’s like, he said, when Southern Baptist preacher and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, outraged over the mandate, got in front of CPAC and said, “Thanks to President Obama, we are all Catholics now.”
Sensenbrenner said his bill protects employers from “Obamacare’s Catch-22.”
“Our religious liberties are not bartering chips,” he said. “Let’s not treat them that way.”