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Harry Reid Will Allow Vote on GOP Birth Control Proposal

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would allow a vote on a Republican proposal to let companies and insurance providers opt out of mandated birth control coverage.

“I have agreed to a vote on contraception,” Reid said today.

He did not specify what vehicle he had in mind, but the next opportunity would be on the transportation bill the Senate is considering.

Details of the amendment are still being worked out, said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who is a lead sponsor of the amendment along with Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).

“I will continue to work with my colleagues to find a way to be sure that people who have faith-based objections to these new mandates have right of action that allows them to challenge those mandates, and we’ll see what course that takes us on,” Blunt said today.

The Blunt amendment comes in response to a rule put forth by the Obama administration that would require insurance companies to provide and pay for contraception services. The rule initially would have required employers, including Catholic hospitals, to provide and pay for the services, but the White House changed it to accommodate religious employers.

Republicans charge that the rule still does not take into account the conscience of religious employers such as the Catholic Church, which opposes contraception.

Democrats argue that contraception services are a basic health care need and that the modified rule is a compromise that takes into account women’s health and church conscience by switching the burden to the insurer from the employer. Reid’s move will put all Democrats on the record regarding the modified rule, including those who said they had concerns with the initial Obama rule, such as Sen. Bob Casey (Pa.).

Other possible amendments to the bill include a proposal approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, which Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) hopes to offer. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) hopes to offer an amendment that would delay and alter boiler pollution regulations.

Some Democrats oppose the two amendments over environmental concerns, while others support them.

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