Sen. Harry Reid (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Tuesday
that the Senate will vote on the amendment by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) to repeal the administration's birth control mandate
. Of course, Blunt's amendment would go much further than just allowing employers and insurers to refuse to provide coverage for birth control. It would allow any employer to reject coverage for any health service, if they find it "morally" objectionable.
Reid blocked the amendment when Republicans tried to push it last week, before President Obama announced his accommodation for religiously affiliated non-profits covered by the new rule. That accommodation gives Democrats more leverage in using this as a wedge issue to demonstrate just how extreme and out of touch with mainstream opinion the Republicans are, which public opinion polling continues to demonstrate.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who has strongly condemned the Blunt amendment, welcomes this vote for that reason.
"Let them bring it to the floor," the California Democrat told MSNBC's Al Sharpton Tuesday night. "We are ready to vote. This is so extreme."
Boxer argued that the language of the amendment is so broad that it would enable employers to exploit the use of moral objection to deny their employees insurance.
"Let's use an example. Let's say somebody believes that medicine doesn't cure anybody of a disease but prayer does," she said. "And then they decide no medicine. No medicine. And under the Blunt amendment, they could do just that."
That's where Democrats have decided Republicans should be cornered. The Blunt amendment will likely again be included in consideration of the transportation bill, but a Senate Democratic leadership aide says
it probably won't come to the floor until after next week's Presidents' Day recess. Between the glacial pace of the Senate, and the need to pass the conference bill on extending the payroll tax cut, it's unlikely to happen any sooner.