Senate Defeats Hobby Lobby Bill on Procedural Vote

July 18, 2014

This week, the Senate defeated a bill that sought to quickly reverse the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision by requiring employers to provide any coverage mandated by the Affordable Care Act.  The bill (S. 2578) would have prevented companies from relying on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to avoid complying with the Affordable Care Act's requirement to cover all forms of contraception approved by the government without charging employees a copayment.  While this election year bill may not impact most HR Policy members, it does raise questions about what health benefits Congress may require employers to cover in the future and the role of employers in sensitive situations.  According to one of the bill's lead co-sponsors, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), the "common-sense proposal will keep women's private health decisions out of corporate board rooms, because your boss shouldn't be able to dictate what is best for you and your family."  While Senate Democrats up for re-election in November hoped to appeal to female voters, Republicans called the bill a political stunt and introduced their own bill (S. 2605) this week that would reaffirm that employers cannot prohibit a woman from accessing contraception or any other FDA-approved drug or medical device.  The procedural vote, which was largely along party lines (56 to 43), came up short of the 60 votes needed to advance the legislation.  It is uncertain whether the bill will be brought up for another vote this year.