(CNSNews.com) – Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated Thursday that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives that he leads may go ahead and provide the Obama administration with the funding it needs to implement a regulation that earlier this year Boehner himself called "an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country."
At a Capitol Hill press conference on Thursday, Boehner said he believes "resolving" the regulation's attack on religious liberty may not be something for Congress to deal with because he thinks it may be one of those policy goals that "can sometimes best be done [through] other than legislative avenues."
Boehner did not explain what those "other than legislative avenues" may be. However, whether or not the Obama administration can actually carry out the regulation depends entirely on whether or not Boehner's Republican-majority House votes to give the administration the money to do it. If the Republican-majority House prohibits spending any money to implement the regulation in whatever legislation that funds the government after Sept. 30, the administration cannot implement it.
Boehner's House can stop what Boehner called an "attack on religious freedom," or it can give Presdient Obama the money to launch the attack.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius finalized the regulation earlier this year. It requires virtually all health care plans to cover, without cost-sharing, sterilizations, contraception and abortion-inducing drugs. The regulation takes effect Aug. 1. It has been denounced by at least 154 members of Congress, and numerous religious groups, including the Catholic Church, whose bishops in the United States have unanimously called it an "unjust and illegal mandate" and a "violation of personal civil rights."
In most Catholic diocese around the nation earlier this year, the bishops issued letters, read from the pulpit, that declared of the regulation: "We cannot--we will not--comply with this unjust law." Since then, more than 40 Catholic entities--including the University of Notre Dame and the archdiocese of Washington, St. Louis and New York--have filed lawsuits against the mandate. This week, a federal court in Colorado held the initial hearing in a lawsuit by a small business owned by a Catholic family arguing that the regulation violates its First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.
On Thursday, CNSNews.com asked Boehner, “In whatever legislation funds the government past September 30, will the House Republicans permit or not permit funding for the regulation requiring all health care plans to cover sterilizations, contraceptives, and abortion-inducing drugs”?
Boehner, a Catholic, said: “I’ve had no conversation about what would be included in the CR so when we have something to announce we’ll let you know.”
Another reporter then asked Boehner, “Along those lines, next week is the plan to actually require health care plans to include contraceptives goes into effect. You said last year that you guys were going to introduce legislation to address that. It never came up. What do you guys plan on doing in terms of that”?
Boehner said, “We’re continuing to work with those groups around the country who believe that their religious liberties are being infringed to try to come to a resolution of this issue. Sometimes resolving these issues can sometimes best be done other than legislative avenues. So we’re continuing to work with them on the best way forward.”
Back on Feb. 8, Boehner said the HHS rule “constitutes an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country.” He further said, “In imposing this requirement, the federal government is violating a First Amendment right that has stood for more than two centuries, and it is doing so in a manner that affects millions of Americans and harms some of our nation’s most vital institutions."
“If the president does not reverse the Department’s attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must," said Boehner.
"The House will approach this matter fairly and deliberately through regular order and appropriate legislative channels," he said. "This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in this country must not stand and will not stand."
The regulation takes effect on Wednesday.
The end of fiscal year 2012 is on Sept. 30, and the current continuing resolution (CR) funding the government expires on that date. To keep the government funded past that point, Congress must pass new legislation appropriating the money.