GOP Freshman Likens HHS Reg to Pearl Harbor--But Won't Say If He'll Vote to Fund It

By Jon Street | August 2, 2012 | 3:20 PM EDT

Rep. Mike Kelly (R.-Pa.) (AP Photo)

( – Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), a member of the congressional class of 2010, said Wednesday that he wants Americans to remember Aug. 1, 2012 along with Dec. 7, 1941 and Sept. 11, 2001, because as we were attacked on those other days so on Aug. 1, 2012 was our religious freedom attacked.

"I know in your mind you can think of times when America was attacked," said Kelly. "One is December 7th. That's Pearl Harbor Day. The other is September 11th, and that's the day of the terrorist attack. I want you to remember August 1st, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is the day that will live in infamy along with those other dates."

Kelly was referring to the Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation, which took effect on Wednesday, that requires health plans to cover, without cost-sharing, sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.”

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Yet when Kelly was asked whether he would vote for a continuing resolution that would give the Obama administration the money to enforce this "attack on our religious freedom," Kelly said it was a “hypothetical” question and he would not answer it.

The Republican-controlled House must pass legislation by Sept. 30 to keep the government funded past that date. That legislation can either permit or not permit the Obama administration from using money to enforce the regulation that Kelly calls an "attack on our relgious freedom."

In casting their votes for the next CR, Kelly and all other members will be voting for or against giving the Obama administration the money to move forward with regulation.

If the legislation funding the government past Sept. 30 includes language prohibiting the administration from spending money to implement the regulation, the administration cannot implement it.

The regulation mandates that nearly all health insurance plans must cover--without any fees or co-pay--sterilizations, contraceptives, and abortion-inducing drugs.

The Catholic Church has denounced the regulation as an “unjust and illegal mandate” that violates the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion because it forces Catholic workers, business owners and institutions to buy and/or provide health care plans that violate the teachings of the Catholic faith.

The University of Notre Dame--Kelly's alma mater--has sued the Obama administration arguing that the regulation violates Notre Dame's First Amendment rights. So, too, have more than 40 other Catholic institutions and business owners.

At a Capitol Hill press conference on Wednesday, after noting the dates when America had been attacked in the past, Kelley said: “The question is, if not us, who, if not now, when? It is our turn, there is no option, we have to stand up now and defend our Constitution.”

After his remarks, asked Rep. Kelly, “Yes or no, will you vote for the next continuing resolution if it permits the Obama administration to spend money implementing this HHS regulation which the Catholic bishops have declared an unjust law and House Speaker Boehner himself says attacks religious freedom”?

Kelly interrupted the question after “Catholic bishops have declared” and said, “You know what? I don’t want to interrupt you but I am going to interrupt you because we can get into this long dialogue and we can probably debate for hours about if, what, and then, and all the hypothetical[s].”

“What just happened today was an attack on our religious freedom, so the rest of this is just talk,” said Kelly.  “I don’t want to get down in the weeds on something that doesn’t make sense to the American people. We know it was taken away from us today. So as far as the continuing resolution coming up or other legislation coming up, it’s all hypothetical. I don’t think any of us can answer that. I would tell you that we’re strong defenders of our religious rights.” attempted a follow-up question: “So, you would vote to not permit funding for the HHS mandate”?

Kelly did not respond.

Another reporter then asked Kelly, “With all due respect, this law cannot be administered if a CR [continuing resolution] bill does not fund it. Would you vote for a CR for --”

Kelly interrupted the reporter and said, “But again, the question is about the CR, and I understand that. And I think that all of us, and I gotta’ tell you and I want you to understand I’m being as respectful as I can--the question today was, ‘Was our religious freedom taken away or not?’ The question will come up in the future about will we vote for a CR and we don’t even know what’s in the CR yet or if there will be a CR.”

PResident Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. (AP Photo)

“So, again, hypotheticals are fine but I want to talk today, and my colleagues are here today, for one specific reason,” said Kelly.  “Our religious freedom was taken away today. That’s the message. That’s what we came here to talk about.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced on July 31 that they were working on a CR and that President Barack Obama, said Reid, had agreed to the deal. While details have not been released, the CR reportedly would fund the government into early 2013 at a cost of $1.047 trillion.

If Obama has agreed to the deal, as Sen. Reid said, then it is highly probable that full funding for the HHS regulation and Obamacare in general is assured, and that the GOP House leadership has agreed to it. resubmitted by e-mail the question about funding of the regulation to Rep. Kelly’s office. The email asked: “Yes or no, will you vote for the next continuing resolution if it permits the Obama administration to spend money implementing this HHS regulation which the Catholic bishops have declared an unjust law and House Speaker Boehner himself says attacks religious freedom?”

Kelly’s communications director, Julia Thornton, answered by e-mail, “Rep. Kelly is not commenting on something he hasn’t seen.” then asked her, “All other issues aside, if a CR contains language that would fund the Obama administration with the money it needs to further implement the Obamacare mandates, will the congressman vote or not vote for funding for Obamacare?”

Thornton answered,  “Rep Kelly will not comment on this hypothetical question.”