Senate Republican Conference Vice Chair Roy Blunt (MO) took to the Heritage Foundation on Monday to reaffirm the party's message that its ongoing battle against the Obama administration's tweaked birth control rule is about religious liberty and nothing else.
"What has to be protected here is the faith-based rights of conscience," the senator said, warning the friendly audience that supporters of the policy will try to narrow the debate. "Let's not let that happen," he told them. "Let's make sure the subject continues to be the First Amendment to the Constitution."
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) made the same argument yesterday.
The policy shift, announced Friday, allows religious nonprofits to opt out of paying for an employee's birth control coverage and pass the cost on to the insurance company instead.
Blunt dismissed it as an "accounting trick" that ignores the problem. "It's not even a distinction without a difference. There is no difference," he said. "[The President] still doesn't understand that this mandate isn't about cost -- it's about who controls the religious views of faith-based institutions."
Senate Republicans say they'll push legislation to repeal the mandate entirely and let any employer with a moral or religious objection deny birth control coverage in their health insurance plan. Blunt is the author of the bill.
Blunt said the battle will go on "unless the president totally changes his position," although he added that if the GOP override passes and Obama vetos it, "I'm pretty sure the two-thirds needed to override a veto is not there."