As news spread that a provision in President Obama's landmark healthcare legislation mandated that religious institutions, such as schools and hospitals, be forced to provide birth control and contraceptive protection for employees in spite of the institution's religious grounding, the reaction was immediate: The move was a blunder, an unforced error from an administration that had finally started making some headway with voters.
One could expect such a reaction from the Catholic Conference of Bishops, who would be forced to implement policies that go against Catholic doctrine, and from Capitol Hill Republicans, largely pro-life and with a predisposition to be skeptical, at best, of any provisions coming from the still being implemented healthcare law.
And yet, some of those who are voicing their opposition the loudest are Democrats. Exhibit A: former Virginia governor and Democratic National Committee chairman, now Senate candidate, Tim Kaine, who said of the policy, "They made a bad decision in not allowing a broad enough religious employer exemption."
This is a far cry from the Tim Kaine who told a group of Virginia voters last year, "I will never be one of those Democratic candidates who distances themselves from my party or my president," a doubling down from previous statements that any Democrat who dared distance him or herself from the president was both "crazy" and "nuts."
Crazy? Nuts? Whatever it is, Kaine is not alone among Democrats unhappy with the administration's blitzkrieg over religious liberty.
- Virginia Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly, who won re-election in 2010 by less than 1,000 votes, has said, "I just don't think this is a fight that should have been picked and I think it needs to be fixed."
- West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who is facing re-election this year, labeled the policies "un-American" and a "direct affront to the religious freedoms protected under the First Amendment."
- Democrats Sen. Robert Casey and Rep. John Larson have also urged the White House last week to revisit the policy to allow broader exceptions for religious institutions.
- Former Democratic nominee for vice-president and now independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, who caucuses with Senate Democrats, yesterday Tweeted, "I am opposed to the Administration's new requirement that religious org.'s must offer employees contraception benefits," later adding, "Government should not compel religious organization's to provide services contrary to their beliefs."
- Illinois Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski labeled the policy "a violation of conscience rights," adding, "this is the first time I've been really shocked that something is being forced, that people are forced to do something they don't believe in."
We now know that there were at least some voices of reason trying to prevent this from happening. Vice President Joe Biden and former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley both urged a different course of action. In addition, Senator Manchin said this morning on Fox News, while standing next to Sen. Marco Rubio in bipartisan opposition to the language, that he cautioned the administration against this action in early December.
The language coming from these Democrats—"Un-American," "a violation of conscience rights," and as Representative Connolly noted, a "fight" that was "picked" by this administration—is startling in that Democrats rarely offer the slightest critique of anything that falls under the umbrella of what Democrats call "reproductive rights."
And while this provision, and the administration's hostility towards the right of religious institutions to run themselves in accordance with their beliefs, is certainly newsworthy, it should be a surprise to no one. We were warned that something like this could happen.
"We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it," then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told us in March of 2010 about the 2,000 page healthcare reform bill.
Now we know. And the furor the policy is causing has more and more members of the president's party to hope he reverses course as swiftly as he did on the issue of Super PACs.
- Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.
- See a slide show of 10 things that are (and aren’t) in the healthcare bill.
- See photos of healthcare reform protests.