(CNSNews.com) - House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday dodged the question of whether the Republican-controlled House of Representatives that he leads will provide the Obama administration with the funding it will need after the current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30 to implement a new regulation that will require virtually all health-care plans in the United States to cover, without any fees or co-pay, sterilizations, artificial contraceptives and abortifacients.
Because the Catholic Church teaches that sterilization, artificial contraception and abortifacients are morally wrong, the regulation would require Catholics to act against their faith in buying and/or providing coverage for these things. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has said the regulation is an "unprecedented attack on religious liberty" and and "unjust law." Most of the nation's bishops have declared that they "can not and will not" obey it.
The regulation takes effect for most employers on Aug. 1. But under the U.S. Constitution and federal funding procedures, the administration will not be able to implement the regulation after the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 unless Congress permits funding for it.
At his Capitol Hill press conference on Tuesday, Boehner evaded answering the question of whether the House would permit funding to implement the regulation. His office also did not respond to follow-up inquiries seeking Boehner's answer to the question.
CNSNews.com asked Boehner at his press briefing: “The Catholic Church begins a two-week nationwide protest on Thursday against the HHS regulation that requires all health care plans to cover sterilizations, contraceptives, and abortifacients. The church says this violates their religious liberty as Catholics. So will the Republican House permit funding for this mandate in the next CR [continuing resolution]?”
Boehner, who is Catholic, responded: “I do believe that the issue of religious freedom is a serious issue and Catholics around the country--and other denominations--have very serious concerns about this proposed regulation from the Department of Health and Human Services. I believe that their protests, covered under the First Amendment, are the American way to deal with this issue. God bless ‘em.”
In seeking a yes-or-no answer from the speaker on whether the House will permit or prohibit funding for the regulation, CNSNews.com contacted his office by telephone and e-mail several times on Tuesday afternoon to ask the question again. Boehner’s office did not respond.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the Executive Branch cannot spend money from the Treasury except under appropriations approved by law, and an appropriations law cannot be passed without the approval of the House.
Under Speaker Boehner, the House has included language in CRs to prohibit the administration from implementing regulations. For example, the last CR, passed in December 2011, included language prohibiting the EPA from spending any money to require mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems.
Catholic dioceses across the country are planning numerous protest activities against the mandate in the two weeks leading up to July 4. In describing its actions, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says, “The fourteen days from June 21--the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More---to July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this ‘fortnight for freedom’--a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power – St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome.”