Dude stepped in it again. Obama has got to stop listening to these self indulgent, arrogant, politically correct idiots he has around him that are too stupid to think longterm and start listening more to the people he has with good horse sense for this crap like Biden and Daley. This whole thing has become a total clusterfuck and might lose him Ohio or some other rust belt state, when most Catholics already use birth control anyway but now feel challenged by what they perceive to be an intrusive policy mandate. Not the kind of timing and optics you want during an election year. so dumb.
[Jay Carney realizing that all the backpeddling jiujitsu in the world won't get them out of this tarpit]
Obama risks Catholic vote with birth-control mandate
By Stephanie Simon
Tue Feb 7, 2012 5:37pm EST
(Reuters) - Dr. Joe Casillas, an obstetrician in Southern California, routinely prescribes birth control for his patients. Though he's a practicing Catholic, he doesn't follow his church's stern warning that contraception is a sin. He believes women should have access.
Yet Casillas was dismayed when the Obama administration recently ruled that religious institutions had to follow the same rules as other employers and offer free contraception as part of health insurance coverage. The idea that the government would force Catholic hospitals to subsidize birth control - or, to avoid the mandate, drop health insurance for their employees - appalled him.
Now Casillas, a registered Democrat who voted for Obama in 2008, says he is not at all sure he can back the president for a second term. "It's given me pause," he said.
Similar shockwaves are reverberating across the country, as Obama's refusal to exempt religious employers from this provision of his health-care law has deeply angered many Catholics - who will make up a crucial, and unpredictable, chunk of the electorate in the November presidential election. About one in four U.S. voters is Catholic and as a group they have swung back and forth between Democrats and Republicans.
In recent days, the administration has said it is willing to work with religious institutions to find ways to cover contraception without violating principles of faith. But no concrete plans for compromise have emerged.
The protest has been led by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which encouraged parish priests from coast to coast to read aloud fiery letters denouncing the federal policy during Mass. "It is hard not to see this new mandate as a direct attack on Catholic consciences and the freedom of our Catholic institutions," Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez wrote in one such letter of protest.
The bishops also urged the faithful to bombard Congress and the White House with complaints. By Tuesday, more than 25,000 people had signed an online petition demanding that the rule be overturned.
FAIRNESS FOR WOMEN
The administration cast the decision as a matter of equity for women. The new federal health care law requires most insurance plans to cover preventive services, such as blood pressure checks and childhood immunizations, without a deductible or co-pay. An outside board of scientists and doctors recommended last summer that contraception be included as a preventive service and the administration agreed.
The mandate does not apply to insurance plans offered by churches and schools that serve and employ primarily people of one faith. Nor does it require any individual physician or pharmacist to provide a service he considers immoral.
But insurance offered by church-affiliated institutions that deal with the public at large, such as hospitals and universities, must cover contraception. The mandate takes effect for most employers August 1; religious employers can apply for a one-year extension.
Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, a group that supports access to contraception, said he's heard from hundreds of women employed by Catholic institutions who welcome the new policy - and express anger at the bishops, who they see lobbying to deny them a benefit provided to others under federal law.
"They think it would be a great injustice that they be treated differently from other workers," O'Brien said. "Why is it they should be discriminated against?" Yet many are reluctant to speak out publicly, he said, for fear of angering their employer.
A new poll released Tuesday by the Public Religion Research Institute, a non-partisan research group whose board members include a number of religious leaders who have supported progressive causes, found that a majority of Americans - including 58 percent of Catholics - support a requirement that health insurance plans provide free birth control. A slight majority of Catholic voters, 52 percent, said religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should also have to provide that benefit.
Without insurance, contraception generally costs $15 to $80 a month, depending on the method and brand. A recent study by the Guttmacher Institute, which supports expanded access to contraception, found that even among women who are employed, one in four says she's found it tough to afford contraception. The study found 18 percent of women who are on the birth-control pill sometimes skip doses or entire months to save money.
"I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services," Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, said in announcing the policy last month.
The administration also pointed out that 28 states already require insurance plans to cover contraception if they cover other prescription drugs. In most cases, however, religious institutions can get around that requirement through exemptions and loopholes.
The new mandate offers just one loophole: Any employer, including a religious institution, can continue to offer the same health benefits it currently provides, so long as the plan is frozen exactly as is. If the employer or insurer raises costs, tweaks deductibles or changes the benefits in any way - which happens very frequently in most plans - the new rules apply.
Many Catholics - including key Catholic supporters of Obama - said the president gravely miscalculated, on both the moral issue and the political implications.
"These are questions that go to the heart of who we are as a people and as a church," said Douglas Kmiec, a conservative legal scholar who broke from his fellow Republicans to campaign for Obama in 2008 as part of an influential group called Catholics for Obama. "There's no question this will cause complications for Obama."
Obama won the Catholic vote decisively in 2008, on the strength of strong support from Hispanic Catholics. But polls show that a sizeable number of Catholics had already begun to shift allegiances to the Republican Party before this decision. While Catholics as a group still lean left, the Democrats held an edge of just six percentage points among the group last year - down from 16 percentage points in 2008, according to polling by the Pew Research Center.
Political analysts say even before this decision, Obama faced a tough challenge holding on to support from white, working-class Catholics in battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio. It was votes from that bloc that helped propel Republican George W. Bush to victory in 2004.
Another crucial group for the president: Hispanic Catholics in swing states such as Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado. Polls show many Latino voters are already upset at Obama for deporting a record number of illegal immigrants during his presidency; for some, this could be the final blow.
"I don't know what to tell you except that everyone's still stunned," said Robert Aguirre, president of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders, a nonprofit group of business owners and civic leaders.
Obama could take an especially big hit on the issue politically if the Republicans pick Florida Senator Marco Rubio as a vice presidential nominee, political analysts said. Rubio, who is Catholic, has filed a bill to overturn the contraception mandate and could keep the issue alive.
A POLITICAL MISCALCULATION?
Catholics who have worked closely with the White House on various issues said they believe the administration misjudged the response for several reasons.
Polls show that as many as 98 percent of Catholic women in the United States have used birth control, despite the church's teachings.
And Obama received important support from Catholics in his grueling health-care fight; though the bishops opposed his overhaul, other prominent voices in the church supported him on the grounds that extending coverage to more Americans furthered social justice.
So the administration may well have believed that opposition to expanded contraceptive coverage would be muted, said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a national Catholic social-justice lobbying group. "You could say they miscalculated," she said.
Indeed, several groups that supported Obama's general health-care goals have issued biting statements opposing the new mandate. "The administration got focused on the substance and missed the higher-level issue of conscience," said Campbell.
For Casillas, the ob/gyn in southern California, that issue of conscience is paramount. It doesn't violate his conscience to prescribe birth control - but he knows other Catholics have a different take. "I want to preserve their ability to maintain their moral compass," he said.
Catholics who continue to back Obama despite their dismay at the contraception mandate say they'll urge voters to consider all of the president's policies, not just this one ruling.
That tactic worked in 2008, when Catholics for Obama put out radio ads and booklets arguing that Obama's policies on aiding the poor and ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were in line with Catholic social justice teachings - and made him a moral choice for president, despite his support for legal abortion.
The president seemed to be laying the groundwork for a repeat of that campaign when he spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast last week. He told the crowd of religious leaders that many of his policies, including his call for the wealthy to pay more in taxes, sprang from Biblical teaching. "For me as a Christian," Obama said, the proposed tax hike "coincides with Jesus's teaching that 'for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.'"
It's unclear how well that tactic will play in this election, after the latest furor. "The Obama campaign went out of its way in 2008 to court Catholics," said Stephen Schneck, a political scientist at the Catholic University of America who has advised the president on outreach. "This could be messing all that up."
Birth Control Is Covered, and G.O.P. Vows a Fight
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER
Published: February 8, 2012
WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans, seizing on the type of social issue that motivates and unifies their base, stepped forcefully Wednesday into the battle over an Obama administration rule requiring health insurance plans provided by Catholic universities and charities to offer free birth control to women, vowing to fight back with legislation to unravel the new policy.
Racing to defend the administration, five Democratic senators returned from their party’s retreat south of the Capitol to hold a news conference to push back on that notion. “We stand here ready to oppose any attack that is being launched against women’s rights and women’s health,” said Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York.
For House Republicans, who have been hammered in the last few months in the battle over a payroll tax holiday, and whose signature bill for the second session, a transportation measure, is already under fire from the left and the right, the fight over the contraception rule offered a possible way to regain their political footing, particularly with signs that the economy might be improving.
It is potentially a powerful wedge issue that could unite what has been a fractured conference. Further, similar to their efforts in support of the Keystone XL pipeline, the party can attract just enough Democrats to their side to complicate things for the administration.
Speaker John A. Boehner, taking the floor at a time usually reserved for brief speeches by rank-and-file members, said he had asked the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is at the center of Republican war against the health care law, to draft legislation blocking the rule. Kathleen Sebelius, Mr. Obama’s secretary of health and human services, will be questioned about the new rule at a hearing on March 1, Republicans said.
On Wednesday, Representative Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska said that he would revive his Respect for Rights of Conscience bill, introduced last March. “In recent days, Americans of every faith and political persuasion have mobilized in objection to a rule put forth by the Obama administration that constitutes an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country,” Mr. Boehner said before a group of roughly 25 members in the chamber to give their own one-minute morning speeches.
“In imposing this requirement,” he added, “the federal government is violating a First Amendment right that has stood for more than two centuries. And it is doing so in a manner that affects millions of Americans and harms some of our nation’s most vital institutions.”
A handful of Republican senators held a news conference on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to say that they, too, would seek legislation to push back on the rule, although it is unlikely that such a bill would have wide enough support to gain traction in that chamber.
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who attacked the administration in English and Spanish at the news conference, already has a bill that would permit religious organizations to opt out of providing health care benefits to which they had a conscientious objection.
The Republican effort to challenge the new rule could present a difficult choice for Democrats who are uneasy about it, which is exactly what Republicans hope. As the controversy spread across Washington, several Democrats from both chambers expressed feelings from skepticism to downright distaste for the Obama rule.
Representative John B. Larson of Connecticut, a member of the House Democratic leadership, sent a letter to Ms. Sebelius that read: “Having worked to pass the Affordable Care Act and being firmly supportive of its implementation, I believe that further flexibility needs to be granted to religiously affiliated organizations in this instance.”
Senator Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania, put out a statement in opposition to the new rule: “I have strongly supported efforts to provide greater access to contraception,” he said. “I believe, just as strongly, that religiously affiliated organizations like hospitals and universities should not be compelled by our federal government to purchase insurance policies that violate their religious and moral convictions.”
Representative Daniel Lipinski, Democrat of Illinois, issued a statement condemning the Obama administration’s decision as well, and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, posted on Twitter: “Government should not compel religious organization’s to provide services contrary to their beliefs.” Other Democrats across the country joined them in their criticism.
For Republicans, the new rule is part of a broader web of mandates that stems from the health care law that they have sought to undo bit by bit. The Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing in November to examine health care regulations and “conscience rights.” Republicans critical of the rule repeatedly cited the overall health care law as the central culprit.
Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, was asked about his own record on contraception mandates while he was governor of Massachusetts. ”In working on our health care plan,” he said, “I worked very hard to get the Legislature to remove all of the mandated coverages, including contraception.”
The White House, which has been trying to defend the new policy carefully, appeared Wednesday not to be backing down. “We want to work with all these organizations to implement this policy in a way that is as sensitive to their concerns as possible,” Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said Wednesday at the daily press briefing. “But let’s be clear: We are committed, the president is committed, to ensuring that women have access to contraception without paying any extra costs, no matter where they work.
Joe Biden, Bill Daley warned of contraceptive backlash
By JENNIFER EPSTEIN, Politico | 2/8/12 1:01 PM EST
Two top advisers to President Barack Obama — both Catholics — warned him of the potential for controversy over his decision to require religious organizations to cover contraceptives in their health insurance plans.
Vice President Joe Biden and former White House chief of staff Bill Daley both told the president that the decision would be cast as a government intrusion on religious freedom and that it could alienate Catholic voters in swing states, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. The decision has whipped up a frenzy of criticism for the president that he’s been battling since the move went public.