Why Did These People Vote for the Blunt Amendment?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 1 2012 2:42 PM

Why Did These People Vote for the Blunt Amendment?

When we left Senate Amendment 1520, Ohio reporter Jim Heath was bobbling a question about it. The "Blunt-Rubio" bill, as he called it, did not actually "ban contraception." It did allow any employer to sidestep a mandate, and deny coverage for birth control if the employer so chose.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Today, the Senate killed the amendment -- but only just. Three Democrats backed the Blunt amendment. (They are recorded as nays, because they voted against tabling it.)

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- Bob Casey, Pennsylvania, is up for re-election in 2012; he defeated Rick Santorum six years ago, in part, because he's nominally pro-life. (The pro-life movement doesn't want to hear it, because Casey voted for Obama's Supreme Court nominees.)

- Joe Manchin, West Virginia, is also up for re-election in 2012, and probably needs to run 11-15 points ahead of Barack Obama to survive.

- Ben Nelson, Nebraska, who is retiring this year, passing the baton (in all likelihood, according to the whims of primary voters) to former Sen. Bob Kerrey. He's handed Republicans a potent question to ask that will either define Kerrey as a sap unacceptable to NARAL or a baby-hater unaware of the new pro-life standard. But this might have happened had Nelson voted no, too.

Every single Republican voted to save the amendment. The allegedly pro-choice Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, the fence-straddling (or at least fence-conscious) Scott Brown. These were largely safe votes; Snowe is retiring, and Brown wrote his negative ads for November when he endorsed the bill last month. Never understimate the ability of a non-supermajority U.S. Senate to cast completely predictable partisan votes on stillborn* legislation.

*Sorry.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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