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Hobby Lobby reversal bill rejected

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(Bloomberg) — The Senate turned back S. 2578, a Democratic bill that would require for-profit companies to provide workers with insurance coverage for birth control services and other medical services even if the employer had religious objections to those services.

Senators voted 56-43, with 60 required, not to advance the measure, which seeks to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving the craft-store chain Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. 

The Senate was voting on a motion for cloture, or an effort to keep opponents of the measure from stalling the bill with an unlimited round of debate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nov., voted against the cloture motion.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, voted for the motion.

“Women should call the shots when it comes to their health-care decisions: Not their boss, not the government, not anyone else — period,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said yesterday in a floor speech. She drafted the measure with fellow Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.

In the June 30 Supreme Court decision, the justices ruled 5-4 that the federal government should try to limit the burden on closely held employers with strong religious beliefs when imposing regulatory requirements.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) required the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to work with the Institute of Medicine to develop a basic package of preventive services that all plans must cover without imposing deductibles or co-payments on the patients.

Former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius backed an Institute of Medicine decision to put birth control benefits in the package.

Senate Democrats developed the Hobby Lobby reversal bill in consultation with the Obama administration.

Republicans accused Democrats of threatening employers’ religious liberty in an attempt to distract from harm to women that Republicans say is caused by PPACA.

“When it comes to decisions about contraception, both parties believe a woman should be able to make her own decisions,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said today on the Senate floor.

McConnell and fellow Senate Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Deb Fischer of Nebraska introduced a measure that he said today specifies that “an employer cannot block an employee from legal access to her FDA-approved contraceptives.”



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