House Republicans' latest proposal to raise the debt limit and end the shutdown could open the door to another pre-Christmas budget fight over Obamacare’s contraception mandate.
Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., told reporters Tuesday that a new House Republican proposal to end the fiscal deadlock only funds the government through Dec. 15 to give conservatives another chance to repeal the birth-control mandate in the new health care law.
The mandate, which goes into effect with other key provisions in January, requires almost all employers — except churches and other houses of worship — to provide insurance that covers contraception, regardless of whether the plans conflict with the employer's religious beliefs.
Womack told reporters that House Republicans' decision to risk another government shutdown right before Christmas “boils down to conscience protections that basically become compromised on the first of January.”
The Obamacare mandate has stirred controversy over the last two years as religious institutions covered by the provision, including universities and hospitals, have objected to providing contraception coverage.
Republicans say the health care law violates religious freedom.
Democrats counter that the measure is intended to protect women's health.
America's Catholic bishops and the Southern Baptist Convention joined forces this summer and urged Congress to exempt businesses and nonprofits from the mandate.
Republican Sens. Tom Coburn, Okla., and Deb Fischer, Neb., filed the Health Care Conscience Rights Act of 2013, which would exempt faith-based nonprofits and religious business owners from the contraception mandate.
Coburn, a former House member, attended the House Republican conference in the morning and was in touch with colleagues across the Capitol throughout the day.
He declined to comment when asked whether he agrees with the decision to fund the government only through Dec. 15 to allow for another chance to fight the contraception mandate.
“I have to see what's in the package,” he said while walking across the Capitol to speak to an unidentified House GOP colleague.