GOP members of the U.S. Senate tried to offer the president a way out of the self-inflicted religious outrage over the administration’s mandate on birth control coverage but Senate Democrats wouldn’t play ball. Senate Democrats blocked an amendment authored by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., that would have let insurers opt out of providing contraceptive coverage if employers had religious or moral objections.

Roy Blunt amendment

The Blunt amendment, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act was “tabled,” or set aside, on a 51-48 on a party-line vote.

The Blunt amendment to a transportation bill would’ve exempted employers from the government mandate that will soon be enforced as part of Obamacare.

The senator promised that the Blunt amendment “would not fade away no matter the outcome Thursday,” adding the Blunt amendment would do nothing to change existing policy and would only apply to new provisions that have not yet taken effect.

Blunt issued a statement that the Blunt amendment “simply preserves and protects the fundamental religious freedom that Americans have enjoyed for more than 220 years.” He also said that “blatant attempts to frighten and mislead Americans” about the Blunt amendment were dishonest.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said, “It appeals to the social agenda of a small, very vocal part of the Republican Party.”

While Obama’s policy decision was revised last month, it now requires health insurers to cover birth control for employees even of religiously affiliated institutions whose beliefs conflict with contraception. The new policy requires all employers providing health care insurance to their workers to cover contraceptives.

Catholic bishops and most conservatives believe that even with Obama’s amendments the policy still infringes on religious freedom.

The new policy has ignited a fierce battle over how much power the government should be able to wield over religious institutions and will likely be a major issue in the upcoming election. Many Democrats that initially came out strongly against the policy have been put in the awkward position of having to defend it as it boils into a campaign issue.

GOP members of both houses and numerous conservative organizations have stated that Obama’s requirement violates the freedom of religion because it forces some organizations to cover contraception in opposition to the teaching of their faith.

Richard M. Doerflinger, representative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement on Wednesday that said the Blunt amendment had been created to prevent religious institutions from having to choose between honoring their beliefs and honoring their commitment to cover health care for their employees.

Doerflinger said Democrats’ claims that the bill would cause 20.4 million women now receiving coverage for preventive services to lose that coverage are “preposterous.”

“The Blunt amendment does not modify state or federal laws that are now in effect,” he said. “It only amends the new mandated benefits provisions in Title I of the Health Care Reform Act of 2010 (PPACA), supplying the respect for religious beliefs and moral convictions that is already part of other federal health programs, but is woefully missing from PPACA.”

Democrats have cast the Blunt amendment as an attempt by Republican leaders, under pressure from religious authorities, to limit women’s access to birth control, casting it “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” and may allow employers to exclude coverage for any conditions they find religiously or morally objectionable.

The Democrats stance is, as Mr. Doerflinger said, preposterous, as the Blunt amendment would have done nothing to interfere with a woman’s, or man’s right for that matter, to access to birth control, only to allow employers to avoid directly or indirectly funding its purchase. If you don’t like the moral stance of your employer, go work for someone else.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who wrote the section of the health care law that includes the new preventative coverage mandate, accused Republicans of just trying to take it down, calling the Blunt amendment a “masquerade.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, however, called the new Health and Human Services mandate “a government takeover,” saying it is “precisely the kind of thing the Founding Fathers feared” — an infringement on the First Amendment right of freedom of religion.

Tired and confused former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney initially said he opposed the Blunt amendment Wednesday night, causing a wave of outrage in the conservative community. Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., immediately blasted the governor and Democrats started a firestorm of emails and phone calls about Romney’s opposition to the Blunt amendment.

It took just minutes for the Romney campaign to reverse the governor’s words, saying the governor supported the Blunt amendment and was merely confused by the reporter’s question.

The Obama administration issued a statement attacking the Blunt amendment, saying the president’s supporters need to “stand for a woman’s right to make her own health decisions. This is an issue for everyone. We’re not about to sit back and let the other side tear down access to better care.”

Wonderful, wonderful politics, where everyone’s words are twisted, off-the-wall accusations are made and the truth is but a victim of agenda. It should be a delightful campaign season.