Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski Regrets Voting for Blunt Amdt

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 6, 2012   |   11:58AM   |   Washington, DC

Lisa Murkowski, the pro-abortion Republican senator from Alaska, says she now regrets casting her vote last week for the Blunt Amendment.

The amendment, to neutralize the controversial Obama mandate forcing religious employers to pay for birth control and drugs that may cause abortions for their employees by supporting religious liberties, failed as Democrats voted to defeat the measure.

Now, she tells the News Tribune she regrets the vote and has heard from Alaska constituents who are unhappy with her.

“I have never had a vote I’ve taken where I have felt that I let down more people that believed in me,” she said.

The newspaper reported about her attitude, “She’d meant to make a statement about religious freedom, she said, but voters read it as a vote against contraception coverage for women.”

That’s a position the senator outlined in a letter last month.

“Unfortunately, the Obama administration unilaterally determined that religious hospitals, charities and schools will be required to go against their deeply-held — and constitutionally-protected — beliefs when offering health care services to current employees,” Murkowski wrote. [related]

But Murkowski told the paper she wish she could have her vote back and vote against the amendment.

But when I talked to Murkowski, her position had softened. She said she voted for the Blunt Amendment (proposed by Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt), to send a message that the health care law needed a stronger clause for religious conscience. It was supposed to be a vote for religious freedom, she said, but to female voters back home it looked like a vote against contraception. The language of the amendment was “overbroad,” she said.

“If you had it to do over again, having had the weekend that you had with women being upset about the vote, do you think you would have voted the same?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

Leading pro-life organizations called on the Senate to vote for the amendment to the mandate the Obama administration issued, but Democrats banded together against Republicans to defeat it on a 51 to 48 margin by adopting a motion to table, or kill, it.

Key pro-abortion senators, including Clare McCaskill of Missouri and Jon Tester of Montana, voted against the amendment — which will energize pro-life advocates against their re-election campaigns this November. On the other side, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Ben Nelson of Nebraska were three Democrats who crossed sides and voted with Republicans to support the amendment.

Pro-abortion Republican Olympia Snowe, a Maine senator who recently announced her retirement, was the only GOP lawmaker to oppose the Blunt amendment.

Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, a Republican, was absent for the vote but would have voted for the amendment and against the motion to table.

In July 2011, the Institute of Medicine recommended several mandatory health services, as called for in President Obama’s health law. This included a recommendation requiring health care plans to provide controversial preventive health services, including birth control, drugs that may cause abortions and emergency contraception. The Blunt Amendment would prevent health care providers and insurers from being forced to violate their principles to offer services they are morally opposed to, and it guarantees that all Americans are not penalized or discriminated against for exercising their rights of conscience.

The text of the Blunt Amendment consists of the language taken from the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S. 1467, H.R. 1179).  It would amend the Obama health care law (“ObamaCare”) to prevent the imposition of regulatory mandates that violate the religious or moral convictions of those who purchase or provide health insurance.

ACTION:  Contact Murkowski here to respond.