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by
Bridget Johnson

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February 29, 2012 - 2:10 pm

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) said today that he will vote “in favor of a Senate measure to protect religious liberty” and support Sen. Roy Blunt’s amendment on the HHS contraception mandate.

Blunt added the amendment to the highway bill currently in consideration in the upper chamber. The Missouri Republican tweeted last night that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would allow a Thursday vote on his amendment, the “Respect Rights of Conscience Act,” which restores conscience protections for healthcare workers as they were before President Obama’s healthcare law was enacted.

“When I was Governor of West Virginia, we achieved a commonsense balance between women’s access to medical care and free expression of religion. As this debate moves forward, I would hope that the President and this Congress look to West Virginia as a model,” Manchin said. “While I would have preferred that both sides would have come together around a solution like we had in West Virginia, I am voting in favor of this measure to protect the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

“Well-intentioned people on both sides of this issue can respectfully disagree, but for me this comes down to our religious liberties,” Manchin added. “I truly believe that we must safeguard Americans’ right to exercise their sincerely held religious views, and I support this measure to protect that freedom of conscience.”

If an employer has a religious or moral objection to a type of health coverage, Blunt’s bill lets them negotiate “a plan with a health insurance company that meets their needs.”

The amendment doesn’t impact any state laws that have contraception provisions, but just the Obama coverage mandate.

Most Democrats went on the offensive today against the amendment, claiming employers could claim a moral objection to any number of services.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) tweeted, “#BluntAmendment a threat not only to women’s health, but also to men & children’s health. …Under #BluntAmendment, employers could refuse to cover prenatal care, lifesaving immunizations & screenings 4 diseases like prostate cancer”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said on the Senate floor that the amendment to the transportation bill was for the “entertainment and distraction of people.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said the Blunt amendment “would drive a big Mack truck” through Obama’s healthcare law. “My feeling is we will defeat the Blunt amendment tomorrow,” she said on the floor.

Bridget Johnson is a career journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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