WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats see a political winner in the stinging defeat they suffered when the Supreme Court ruled that businesses with religious objections may deny coverage for contraceptives under President Barack Obama's health care law.
A four-term senator — Washington state's Patty Murray — and a vulnerable freshman — Mark Udall of Colorado — have pushed legislation that would counter last month's court ruling and reinstate free contraception for women who are on health insurance plans of objecting companies.
The Senate was expected to vote Wednesday on moving ahead on the bill, which backers have dubbed the "Not My Boss' Business Act." Republicans who have endorsed the court's decision as upholding the constitutional right of religious freedom are expected to block the measure.
The GOP has dismissed the bill as an election-year political stunt, designed to boost struggling incumbents. The contraception bill, Republicans say, has no chance of becoming law.
That hasn't stopped Democrats from trying to use the issue to motivate female voters, crucial to the party's hopes of keeping its tenuous Senate majority, in typically low-turnout midterm elections in November.
"Women across the country are watching," Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters on Tuesday, leaving no doubt that GOP opposition will be part of an upcoming campaign ad or news release.
Countering the Democrats was Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who stood with male GOP leaders and accused Democrats of peddling erroneous information about the impact of the court's decision.
Nothing in it "allows a company to stop a woman from getting or filling a prescription for contraception," Ayotte, one of four female GOP senators, told reporters.
On the Senate floor, female Democratic senators — and a few males — spoke out in support of the legislation as they warned of further discrimination against women and more changes in health coverage for millions. Democrats are counting on their argument resonating with female voters.