WASHINGTON: Senate Democrats suffered what looked like a difficult setback on birth control Wednesday, but they hope it pays big political dividends in November.
Republicans blocked a bill that was designed to override a Supreme Court ruling and ensure access to contraception for women who get their health insurance from companies with religious objections.
The vote was 56-43 to move ahead on the legislation — dubbed the “ ‘Not My Boss’ Business Act” by proponents. The total was four short of the 60 necessary to proceed.
But Democrats hope the issue has enough life to energize female voters in the fall, when Republicans are threatening to take control of the Senate.
GOP senators said Wednesday’s vote was simply a stunt, political messaging designed to boost vulnerable Democratic incumbents. The GOP needs to gain six seats to seize control.
“Democrats are just trying to win an election,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said.
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Republicans were the ones “out of touch with reality.”
He promised that Democrats would continue to press the issue.
Women voters proved crucial in electing President Barack Obama and members of his party. And Democrats desperately need a strong turnout as they defend 21 Senate seats to the GOP’s 15, many in Republican-leaning states where Obama’s approval ratings are a likely drag.
Last month, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that requiring closely held companies to pay for various forms of women’s contraception to which they object violates the corporations’ religious freedom.
The decision marked the first time the high court had declared that businesses can hold religious views under federal law.