WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats and Republicans are fervently pursuing a batch of doomed bills in Congress because they target a coveted prize in the Nov. 4 elections: female voters.
Wednesday's Senate vote on contraception legislation is the latest example of Democrats' win-by-losing strategy, which forces Republicans to vote on sensitive matters that might rile women this fall.
Recent votes on "pay equity" and family leave issues were similarly aimed at women, who are increasingly crucial to Democrats' election hopes, and therefore worrisome to Republicans. Any shift in women's typical turnout or Democratic tilt this fall could determine tight elections, especially for the Senate.
Republicans need to gain six Senate seats to control the chamber, and these women's issues are especially lively in the most contested states, including Colorado, North Carolina, Arkansas and Louisiana.
Both parties must cater to their ideological bases in this midterm election year, even as they woo women who don't always vote. Nearly all Republicans are opposing measures that appear likely to expand abortion access, place new requirements on employers or limit religious conservatives' rights. And Democrats overwhelmingly support abortion access, worker benefits and equal treatment of women in the workplace.
Still, Democrats approached this week's birth control debate with different tactics, depending on whether they were seeking re-election in a GOP-leaning state or in a 50-50 or Democratic-leaning state.
Democrats knew Republicans would block their bill to counter the Supreme Court's ruling involving the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts company. The court said employers may exclude birth control products from their health insurance plans if the products violate the employers' religious faith.
Many Democratic and women's groups objected. No women "should require a permission slip from their boss" for affordable contraceptives that otherwise would be covered, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said.