GOP Senators Opt to Support Another Piece of Unpopular Legislation

Despite the defection of Bob Casey, Joe Manchin, and Ben Nelson, Senate Democrats (with the aid of Olympia Snowe) were able to block a Republican-sponsored measure that would give employers the right to reject any health care coverage for any reason. Sahil Kapur gives a rundown of the fight at Talking Points Memo:

The close Senate vote reflects a strong GOP effort to contain the political consequences of pushing the controversial amendment before the public had a chance to weigh in. After a concerted whip effort, only one Republican — Sen. Olympia Snowe (ME) — defected. All other waffling GOPers, including Scott Brown (MA), Susan Collins (ME), and Dean Heller (NV) fell into line. Indeed more Democrats (three in total) crossed the aisle to vote for the Blunt amendment than vice versa. But there’s a good reason Dem leaders pushed anyway: on issues like contraception, they’re confident they’ll win the broader battle for public perception.

I remain amazed by Mitch McConnell’s ability to wrangle his caucus into voting for anything, regardless of its unpopularity. If passed into law, the Blunt Amendment would give employers a de facto veto on the personal lives of their employees. Your boss doesn’t like that you live, unmarried, with your partner? Well, he’s going to deny birth coverage because he doesn’t like the idea of premarital sex. Outside of the country’s most conservative areas—and even, I’d wager, within them—this is extremely unpopular. That so many Republicans voted for it—including Scott Brown, who is in a tough race for his Massachusetts Senate seat—is a testament to McConnell’s skill.

As an aside, the Blunt Amendment is a nice data point in favor of decoupling health insurance from employment. These laws are only possible in a world where employers are responsible for giving health coverage to their employees. It’s not that politicians wouldn’t be able to use health services as a political football, as much as it is that these shenanigans would become much more difficult.