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House Democrats Return to Campaign Finance Tack

Updated: 5:22 p.m.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi defended President Barack Obama’s move to embrace his super PAC today, even as she trumpeted new legislation aimed at increasing disclosure of corporate spending in campaigns.

“I’m glad that the president took the courageous stand that he did,” the California Democrat said at a press conference during which she and other colleagues announced the release of the DISCLOSE Act, a bill sponsored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and aimed at increasing transparency in campaign finance laws.

“The fact is, you never know what’s next with these guys,” Pelosi said of Republican operatives, noting that Obama is trying to keep pace by giving his blessing to raise money for Priorities USA Action, the super PAC aimed at supporting his re-election campaign. “They’ll come up with some other way” to get around campaign laws, she said.

Pelosi said Obama’s move does not diminish his message on the need for campaign finance reform, a charge Republicans have made since his campaign announced its decision. Instead, Democrats said Obama’s decision helps their own message.

“This is the moment of truth for the truth in campaigns,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) said.

Some Republicans questioned the propriety of a statement Pelosi made during the briefing: “We’re asking people to contribute to us if they want to elect more reformers to Congress.”

“The comment was very clearly referring to our efforts to disclose, reform and amend,” Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said. “Reporters have repeatedly asked the leader how to square fundraising and reform policy, so that’s why she said we have to raise money to elect more reformers. That is her pitch to supporters.”

Pelosi also defended the administration’s Jan. 20 rule requiring religious-affiliated hospitals and universities, but not churches, to provide insurance coverage of contraceptives. While the decision has sparked a culture war on Capitol Hill, Pelosi said “this is about women’s health.”

“This is about the privacy and right of families if they want to use contraception to decide the size and timing of their having children and the size and the time of their families,” Pelosi said, vowing to fight against GOP legislation to roll back the rule.

House GOP lawmakers are looking at ways to rescind the rule, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will testify before the Energy and Commerce Committee next month on the matter. Speaker John Boehner said at a press conference earlier today that legislation is forthcoming.

“Our country has upheld this issue since our founding, and I think the House is going to work, again, through the regular order with real deliberations about how we protect the religious freedom of the American people,” the Ohio Republican said. “That’s the issue, and we’re keenly focused on it.”

The Speaker made a rare floor speech Wednesday saying essentially the same thing. Many observers pointed to Boehner’s Catholic background in making the argument. Pelosi is also Catholic.

Jonathan Strong contributed to this report.

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