Since negotiations to avert a national default on the debt have shifted from the House to the Senate, Republicans in the lower chamber are still hoping to use the talks as “leverage” to limit women’s access to contraception.
According to the Washington Post, in a private meeting with House Republicans Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) — who earlier this weak floated a compromise that would raise the debt ceiling in exchange for cuts to entitlement programs — railed against emerging Senate proposals and argued that the “House could not accept either a debt-limit bill or a government-funding measure that would delay the next fight until the new year”:
According to two Republicans familiar with the exchange, Ryan argued that the House would need those deadlines as “leverage” for delaying the health-care law’s individual mandate and adding a “conscience clause” — allowing employers and insurers to opt out of birth-control coverage if they find it objectionable on moral or religious grounds — and mentioned tax and entitlement goals Ryan had focused on in a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.
Ryan’s speech appeared only to further rile up the conservative wing of the GOP conference, which has been agitating the shutdown strategy to try to tear apart the health-care law.
The Affordable Care Act stipulates that employers and insurers must provide no-cost contraception coverage as part of their health care plans and exempts churches and religious nonprofits that primarily employ people of the same faith from the requirement. In a compromise between Catholic groups and the White House, religiously affiliated colleges, universities, and hospitals that wish to avoid providing birth control can also opt out of offering the benefits, while their employees receive contraception coverage at no additional cost sharing directly from the insurer.
Republicans, however, are not satisfied with the accommodation and have tried to expand the so-called conscience clause, permitting any employer or insurance plan to exclude health services, no matter how essential, from coverage if they morally object to it.
In the last week of budget negotiations, some in the GOP have walked back their demand to fully defund the Affordable Care Act and have instead offered relatively small changes to the Affordable Care Act. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who is now leading the negotiations with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the White House, insists that changes to the health care law are off the table.