Voting largely along party lines, the Senate voted Thursday to reject a proposal that would allow employers to opt out of providing coverage for medical services such as contraception based on religious or moral objections.
The Senate voted 51 to 48 to table the amendment, offered by Sen. Roy Blunt, R- Mo., with Democrats largely voting against the proposal.
Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, who recently announced that she will not seek re-election, was the only Republican to vote against the proposal.
Meanwhile, Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., Bob Casey, D-Penn., and Joe Manchin, D-W.V., voted for the amendment along with most Republicans.
The offering of the amendment stemmed from a mandate under the healthcare reform law that requires employers to provide women with access to contraceptive services.
While President Barack Obama offered a compromise that would allow religious institutions opposed to the use of contraception to avoid directly paying for the services, Republicans claimed that it was still a violation of religious freedoms.
Democrats, on the other hand, claimed that employers could use the amendment to deny woman access to contraceptive services and potentially deny access to other services such as child immunizations, flu shots, mammograms and prenatal care.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, "Today's vote showed us a great deal about where Republicans' priorities lie. Instead of working with Democrats to create jobs, Republicans are trying to deny women access to health care services like contraception."
"Democrats are trying to move forward with a bill that would create or save nearly two million American jobs," he added. "But at the urging of the Tea Party, Republicans are obstructing this jobs bill with unrelated amendments like the one we defeated today."
Meanwhile, Blunt expressed disappointment with the outcome of the vote, claiming that it upholds the Obama Administration's violation of the First Amendment rights of all Americans.
"The fact remains that this provision would simply preserve the fundamental religious freedom that we enjoy today," Blunt said.
He added, "Unfortunately, this is only a glimpse of what Americans can expect as a result of President Obama's government health care takeover - which is why we need to repeal and replace this bill with common-sense bipartisan solutions."
With the narrow vote against the amendment, the controversy over contraception coverage is likely to remain an issue leading up to the elections later this year.
by RTT Staff Writer
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