Bill To Undo Hobby Lobby Ruling Fails In Senate; May Come Back From Dead Later This Year

Last week, Senator Patty Murray of Washington introduced legislation that would have undone the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby ruling, in which the nation’s highest court found that closely held private corporations can exempt themselves from a federal law requiring them to provide health insurance that covers female contraception. Yesterday, the bill fell four votes short of moving forward, but it’s supporters are pledging to bring it up for another vote later in the year.

The bill, known as the Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act (and dubbed the “Not My Boss’s Business Act” by Sen. Murray, would have effectively exempted the Affordable Care Act from the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was intended to prevent individuals from having their exercise of religion substantially burdened by federal laws.

In the Hobby Lobby case, lawyers for the devoutly religious owners of the hobby shop chain argued that the RFRA should also apply to closely held private businesses. A divided SCOTUS agreed, meaning Hobby Lobby and other companies can now claim a religious exemption from the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

Murray’s legislation would have kept intact the ACA’s existing exemptions for places of worship and religious non-profits, but would have clarified that the RFRA does not exempt businesses, regardless of an owner’s religious belief.

Yesterday, the Senate took a procedural cloture vote in an attempt to move the bill forward and preempt a filibuster from those opposing the legislation. In order to succeed, it would have needed 60 votes from supporters. And even though three Senate Republicans did vote against party lines and come out in favor of the bill, it still only managed to garner 56 votes.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid was the only Democrat to vote against the bill, but only so he can bring the matter back to the Senate floor at a later date, which he says he intends to do.

Even if the bill were to eventually pass the Senate, its ultimate fate in the House is a near-certainty. According to GovTrack, a similar version of this legislation introduced in Congress last week stands a 0% chance of being enacted, and is unlikely to even make it out of committee.