Casey Breaks With Party On Contraceptive Vote
Updated at 1:54 p.m.
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., voted against his party's leadership on Thursday, siding with Republicans on an amendment to allow employers to opt out of coverage of medical services, including contraceptive services, that cut against their moral beliefs.
"As I have made clear continuously, I strongly support contraceptives and have voted to provide funding for family planning but I also believe that religiously-affiliated institutions should not be forced by the government to violate their beliefs," Casey said in a statement.
The motion to table the amendment passed by a bare 51-48 majority, with three Democrats defecting to vote against it and one Republican joining Democrats to vote in favor of shelving it.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., introduced the amendment, which has received increased attention following a national debate over mandating contraceptive coverage roiled the political landscape last month. But Casey, a Catholic Democrat, has been put in a tougher position over the issue than any member of his caucus. He faces reelection in a swing state where 32 percent of voters are Catholic, according to 2008 exit polling. After President Obama amended his position on mandating that certain religious institutions provide contraceptive coverage, many Democrats heaped praise on the president, but Casey made clear on Thursday that he isn't satisfied.
"I appreciate the spirit of the Administration's announcement on contraceptives and the attempt to satisfy concerns on both sides of this issue, but it does not go far enough to ensure that this ruling doesn't infringe upon religious liberties. I am hopeful that the Administration now recognizes the imperative of clarifying the rule to ensure that it protects religious liberties while making contraceptive insurance available," he said.
With his vote, Casey is making a politically necessary calculation in a difficult position. He's known as a Democrat who generally opposes abortion rights; it's given him strong appeal in the culturally-conservative parts of the Keystone State. But he's splitting with his party on legislation that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee deemed "radical" and "anti-woman." If Republicans nominated a centrist candidate like businessman Steve Welch, it could hurt Casey's appeal in the fiscally-conservative, socially-centrist Philadelphia suburbs.