Washington Bureau

10.15.13

Pre-Christmas Shutdown Over Contraception?

Even if the government reopens this week, it may shut down in less than two months in a fight over contraception.

Congressman Steve Womack (R-AR) told reporters Tuesday that the new House bill to end the government shutdown and prevent a default intentionally funds the federal government only through mid-December—an attempt to wage another fight over the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act. The debt limit would be extended into early Feburary.

Womack, a second term representative from Northwest Arkansas, said risking another government shutdown 10 days before Christmas "boils to conscience protections that basically become compromised on the first of Janauary." He said that "a provision goes into effect [on January 1] that is violation of conscious beliefs of members of our party." He was specifically referring to the contraception mandate that requires almost all employers, save churches and houses of worship, health insurance which covers contraception. Womack did express his hope that Congress would come to a budget deal before that deadline and return to "regular order."

This provision of Obamacare has been deeply controversial and has been met objections from religious institutions not directly affiliated with a church as well as businesses whose owners have moral objections to providing contraceptive coverage. Many Republicans have derided the contraception mandate as an attack on religious freedom.

The House bill, which is expected to be voted on tonight, also prohibits the Treasury from using "extraordinary measures" to deal with future debt limit issues as well as the Vitter Amendment.