"I support a conscience exemption in health care for Catholics and other people of faith. That's why I signed on to Senator Roy Blunt's bill to restore the conscience protections in the law that existed prior to the passage of Obamacare," Brown said in an email to supporters on Wednesday.
Democrat Elizabeth Warren
"This is a completely new attack that threatens everyone's health care," Warren said on Wednesday. She added that she respects the amended proposal Obama rolled out on Friday.
Brown, like many Republicans, is casting the debate as one over religious liberty. He's also trying to leverage his argument to tie Warren's opposition to the Blunt amendment to Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley
, whom Brown defeated in a 2010 special election.
"My last opponent, Martha Coakley, took the same position and said Catholics who work in emergency rooms should find a new line of work," Brown said.
But Brown's making a gamble. In the larger scheme of things, he's counting on crossover appeal and support from independents in a state that Obama will win by double digits. If voters perceive his stance on the issue as too far to the right, it won't help his case with the middle and could cost him some key support in the solidly-Democratic state.
In Pennsylvania, Sen. Bob Casey
, an anti-abortion rights Catholic Democrat, hasn't yet committed to supporting the Obama administration's amended position, saying last week that he is still reviewing the language. He opposed Obama's original mandate posture.
"I appreciate the Administration's attempt to find a solution to protect religious liberty. I also appreciate those who have proposed other remedies. I will review the details of today's announcement to determine whether it strikes the right balance," Casey said in a statement on Friday.
Thirty-two percent of the Pennsylvania's voters are Catholic, according to 2008 exit polls
. And Casey's Republican opponents have sought to tie him to the president, whose approval rating in the state has been underwhelming. For these reasons, Casey needs to navigate the issue especially carefully.