Obama Readies Compromise On Birth Control Mandate

The Obama administration Friday morning signaled a new compromise on a rule that would require even most religious employer health plans to cover contraception at no cost to employees.

The New York Times: Obama Plans Shift in Birth Control Fight, Aides Say
The Obama administration, seeking to rein in a runaway political furor over birth control and religious liberty, is set to announce a possible compromise on Friday that is meant to calm ire from the right about a new administration rule that would require health insurance plans — including those offered by Roman Catholic hospitals, universities and charities — to offer free birth control to female employees (Cooper, 2/10).

Politico: Birth-Control Compromise To Be Announced By White House
President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver a statement at 12:15 p.m. He is expected to announce that he wants insurance companies to pick up the cost of providing free contraceptives for religious employers, according to one source familiar with the announcement. White House officials briefed reproductive rights groups and Democratic lawmakers Friday morning on the expected announcement (Budoff Brown, 2/10).

ABC: White House To Announce 'Accommodation' For Religious Organizations On Contraception Rule
With the White House under fire for its new rule requiring employers including religious organizations to offer health insurance that fully covers birth control coverage, ABC News has learned that later today the White House — possibly President Obama himself — will likely announce an attempt to accommodate these religious groups. The move, based on state models, will almost certainly not satisfy bishops and other religious leaders since it will preserve the goal of women employees having their birth control fully covered by health insurance (Tapper, 2/10).

The Associated Press: Obama To Change Birth Control Rule
Obama was expected to make the announcement at the White House Friday.  The shift is aimed at containing the political firestorm that erupted after Obama announced in January that religious-affiliated employers had to cover birth control as preventative care for women. Churches and houses of worship were exempt, but all other affiliated organizations were ordered to comply by Aug. 2013. Republican leaders and religious groups, especially Roman Catholics, responded with intense outrage, saying the requirement would force them to violate church teachings and long-held beliefs against contraception (Feller, 2/10).

The Washington Post: White House To Announce Adjustment To Birth Control Rule
But a senior administration official cautioned that the White House will stick to the principle of guaranteeing free contraception coverage for women. The current rule, proposed last summer and confirmed last month as part of Obama's health care overhaul law, requires employers to provide female employees the full range of contraceptive coverage, including birth control, the "morning-after pill" and sterilization services. The measure exempts churches but covers religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals, meaning that many Catholic-run institutions would have to offer insurance plans that church leaders say violate their teachings (Nakamura and Aizenman, 2/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Compromise On Contraception Expected
The Obama administration will announce a compromise Friday on its decision to require religious employers to cover contraceptives in employee health plans, a move the White House hopes will quell some of the political backlash to a decision last month requiring such institutions to pay for coverage, people familiar with the plan said. Details of the compromise position are unclear, but one person familiar with it said it will make sure religious institutions don't have to pay for contraceptives coverage for employees but that insurance companies do. The new mandate will come from the Department of Health and Human Services, this person said (Meckler and Lee, 2/10).

Politico: Obama Birth Control Battle: Bishop Checkmates The President
It was no secret inside the West Wing that Bill Daley, a Catholic with deep connections to the church hierarchy, vehemently opposed the administration's proposal to require church-run hospitals and universities to give their employees free contraception. ... In early November ... Daley set up a four-man Oval Office meeting for himself, Obama, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Vice President Joe Biden, who both shared the view that the policy would sink the president with Catholic voters (Thrush and Budoff Brown, 2/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Biden Backs Birth Control Compromise
Vice President Joe Biden said he is confident the administration will find a way to require almost all health-insurance plans to offer free contraception without forcing Catholic institutions to act against their religious beliefs. His comments Thursday to a Cincinnati radio station came as the White House tried to defuse a growing controversy. ... A White House announcement of a compromise on the matter could come as early as Friday, two people familiar with the situation said (Meckler and Lee, 2/10).

Reuters: Biden Says Contraceptives Fight Can Be Worked Out
Vice President Joe Biden said on Thursday the White House was working to address concerns raised by the Catholic Church over a new rule on contraceptives, and he believed an escalating election-year battle over the issue would be resolved. … "I'm determined to see that this gets worked out and I believe we can work it out," Biden, who is Catholic, told Cincinnati's WLM radio station during a visit to Ohio (Whitesides and Ferraro, 2/9).

Politico: Joe Biden On Birth-Control Furor: 'We Can Work It Out'
In his first public comments on the decision, Biden told Cincinnati radio station WLW that he is "determined to see that this gets worked out, and I believe we can work it out." Biden, the nation's first Catholic vice president, was among the top aides who had warned President Barack Obama that the decision could be politically explosive, particularly with Catholics, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. "As a practicing Catholic, I am of the view that this can be worked out and should be worked out. And I know the president feels the same way," Biden said (Epstein, 2/9).

The Hill: Vice President Biden On Birth Control Rule: 'We Can Work It Out'
Biden has remained silent on the issue to date, at least publicly. But Bloomberg reported Wednesday that he tried to warn President Obama that the decision could become a politically divisive issue. Republicans — including GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney — have railed against the decision, as have a handful of Democrats. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is also strongly opposed to the rule. But women's groups, a key constituency in an election year, have backed the president's decision (Parnes, 2/9).

Roll Call: Harry Reid To GOP: 'Calm Down' About Birth Control Rule
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blocked Republicans today from offering a proposal to repeal an Obama administration rule that requires religious-affiliated institutions to offer employees health insurance that covers birth control. Senate Republican Conference Vice Chairman Roy Blunt (Mo.) attempted to bring to the floor an amendment to a highway funding bill that would eliminate the proposed regulation, which was written by the Department of Health and Human Services as part of President Barack Obama's health care law. Reid objected, charging that the Republicans were trying to upend passage of the transportation bill that might otherwise have broad bipartisan support (Drucker, 2/9). 

The Hill: State AGs Threaten To Sue Over Birth-Control Mandate
Three state attorneys general say they’ll sue the Obama administration over its controversial birth-control mandate unless the White House backs down on its own. "Not only is the proposed contraceptive coverage mandate for religious employers bad policy, it is unconstitutional," the attorneys general said in a letter to top administration officials Thursday. "It conflicts with the most basic elements of the freedoms of religion, speech and association, as provided under the First Amendment" (Baker, 2/9).

St. Louis Beacon: Federal Decision On Contraceptives Sparks Political Firefight In Missouri 
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told reporters Thursday that he does not see room for compromise with the White House. He predicted a Senate vote on the issue, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Thursday blocked Blunt's initial effort to add an amendment to the highway bill that would reverse the birth-control rule. ... All three [Missouri] Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate are accusing Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., of siding with federal officials on the ruling or, at minimum, of exhibiting a "cavalier attitude''  (Mannies and Koenig, 2/9).

The Associated Press/Boston Globe: They're Back: Social Issues Overtake US Politics
All of a sudden, abortion, contraception and gay marriage are at the center of American political discourse, with the struggling — though improving — economy pushed to the background. Social issues don't typically dominate the discussion in shaky economies. But they do raise emotions important to factors like voter turnout. And they can be key tools for political candidates clamoring for attention, campaign cash or just a change of subject in an election year (Kellman, 2/10).

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