After indicating that they were placated by President Obama’s tweaked birth control regulation, Maine Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins appear to be hedging on it, speaking late Tuesday to Jonathan Riskind of the home-state Portland Press Herald.
They appeared to dance around the issue, not taking a stance but saying they aren’t fully with Obama.
Snowe said today that the White House “certainly has made some critical adjustments, but we haven’t seen the final rule so I think it is important to see the final rule to make sure that we understand exactly what it will do. I see there are still some concerns within the Catholic Church, and hopefully the president can continue to work through those issues.”
“I thought that the president’s announcement on Friday was a step in the right direction, but as I indicated at that time, I needed more information about the details,” Collins said today. “A very important issue is how the administration would treat self-insured Catholic institutions. And I haven’t been able to get an answer from the administration on that issue. They have ducked the issue and said that it remains to be seen, that they are working on it and that it could take as long as a year to come up with an answer. That’s very disappointing and undermines what I thought was a sincere attempt initially to deal with the issues that have been raised not only by the Catholic Church but by other faith-based organizations.”
The two senators told Riskind they support the bill by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) that would permit any employer to deny contraceptive services in their health plans, but neither are backing the measure by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) that would let any employer deny any service they morally object to.
It’s an awkward issue for Snowe and Collins, who in 2001 championed legislation that would have established a very similar mandate as Obama’s. The context of their hedging is a concerted GOP push to roll back the regulation in its entirety, an affort that isn’t helped by divisions within the Republican tent.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.