Florida Congressmen Divide Over Hobby Lobby Case
Around the State
Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius. The retailer has opposed Obama’s health-care law, arguing the birth-control mandate included in it violates their religious convictions and freedoms. Two congressmen from Florida divided this week over Hobby Lobby’s resistance to President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law.
From his perch on the House Judiciary Committee, freshman U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis argued that Hobby Lobby was correct in opposing the birth-control mandate.
“The administration has granted exemptions from statutory mandates affecting employer-provided insurance writ large, enumerating minimal benefit requirements, and forcing individuals to buy government-directed insurance,” DeSantis insisted. "The HHS mandate is an executive branch regulation which, unlike the above, can actually be lawfully amended by the administration to accommodate religious freedom. Yet, the Obama administration is even litigating against the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns who care for the sick and elderly. How can the administration grant exemptions to powerful interests as a matter of course but refuse to accommodate the religious freedom of the Little Sisters or Hobby Lobby?
“This case does not concern the availability or legality of contraceptives, and individuals can obtain and use these as they see fit. The question is simply whether the government can force the owners of Hobby Lobby to pay for abortifacients in violation of their faith,” DeSantis added.
Noting George Washington called for religious freedom in his letter to the Annual Meeting of Quakers in 1789, DeSantis stressed the issue.
“Religious freedom is our first freedom which founders such as George Washington knew that government had a duty to preserve,” DeSantis noted. “I wish the Obama administration was willing to heed Washington’s admonition about the need to ‘extensively accommodate’ religious liberty.”
While DeSantis joined fellow Republicans like U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who championed Hobby Lobby’s case, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), took to the national stage to defend the administration’s position.
“A rejection of the contraception benefit would only take us back in time, crippling the progress we’ve made in the four years since the Affordable Care Act became law,” Wasserman Schultz said. “As Democrats, we respect the right of all Americans to exercise their religion, but we do not believe that for-profit employers should have the right to impose their religious beliefs on their employees.”
Wasserman Schultz looked to make the same case to her supporters on Tuesday. “No woman should have her access to contraception cut based on her boss’s opinion,” Wasserman Schultz insisted. “Let’s not turn back the clock on the progress we’ve made in women’s health care these past four years.”
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.