Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 11, 2016

Democrats’ Hobby Lobby Response Would Curtail Religious Freedom Law (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If Sen. Patty Murray and fellow Democrats get their way, employers wouldn’t be able to use a 1990s-era law to avoid Obamacare health coverage mandates for contraception.

That’s the crux of the proposal expected to be introduced by the Washington Democrat that would upend the recent split Supreme Court opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

It’s a bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is eager to bring to the floor for an almost certainly ill-fated test vote.

“The one thing we are going to do during this work period, sooner rather than later, is to ensure that women’s lives are not determine by virtue of five white men,” Reid told reporters. “This Hobby Lobby decision is outrageous and we are going to do something about it. People are going to have to walk down here and vote. And if they vote with the five men on the Supreme Court I think they are going to be treated unfavorably come November.”

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y., is expected to introduce the House companion to Murray’s bill.

The bicameral Democratic plan to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case would effectively narrow the current legal interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In doing so, the measure would prevent employers like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties from claiming religious exemptions to Obamacare mandates pursuant to other federal laws, like the 1993 religious freedom law. That includes the refusal to cover certain contraceptive services that company owners say violate their faith.

The legislation would maintain far more narrow religious exemptions for churches and not-for-profit faith-based groups than the one determined to exist by the Supreme Court in the 5-4 decision on June 30 that applied the religious freedom law to closely held corporations.

In the Court opinion, Justice Samuel Alito noted that the justices never needed to make a First Amendment determination because of the existence of the 1993 law.

Many Democrats and their outside supporters are eager for a renewed fight on the contraception issue approaching the 2014 midterm elections, including EMILY’s List

“Senator Murray and all of the EMILY’s List Democratic women are showing exactly why we need more women’s voices at the table. From pushing to end the gender pay gap to protecting women’s access to health care, Democratic women are leading the way for women and families today and every day,” EMILY’s List spokeswoman Marcy Stech said in a statement.

Melissa Attias and Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.

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