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Thu Mar 1, 2012, 12:51 PM

Kerry Floor Statement on Blunt Amendment Kerry Floor Statement on Blunt Amendment [View all]

Mr. President, this is a difficult time in our politics, a polarized time, and it's difficult for the Senate in particular because over the years this has been a place where we've prided ourselves on working -- really working -- to find ways to avoid that kind of polarization and find the common denominator even on sensitive issues. I think our friend from Maine, Sen. Snowe, spoke for many of us this week when she talked about "my way or the highway" approaches to partisan politics that have made it harder and harder for people to work with each other and get things done. I would never speak for her, but given her diagnosis of what's wrong with the Senate today, the amendment we're debating seems to be exhibit A.

Two years ago, many of us here voted to end an era that many Americans felt put women second -- an era where Viagra was covered for men at no cost by insurance companies, but contraception, which 99 percent of American women use, was not. The President signed our reform into law. And then the Administration took the time to come up with a policy to implement that new law. When they did, there was a firestorm. Many of us, myself included, said at the time it wasn't right to force religiously affiliated institutions to pay for contraception if it violated their beliefs. The Administration quickly moved in a direction that honored this principle of liberty more effectively.

That was the right decision, and this week Secretary Sebelius made it clear they're still working with the faith community on a final rule that will address the concerns of my Church and other institutions which are self-insured. I'm glad this is happening. It is always worth the hard work and patience required to reason together, listen to one another, and achieve a better understanding of the many ways we can respect deeply held beliefs and protect public health at the same time, and that's the spirit needed in our politics and in our country.

But that's not the spirit of the Amendment before us today, the Blunt amendment. It contains dangerously broad language, and if there's one thing I know after 27 years here, it's that language matters when you're writing legislation on such an important area of public policy affecting millions of Americans. Precision matters. This amendment opens up Pandora’s Box – its overly broad and vague exceptions could allow children to be denied immunizations, companies to object to mental health services, health plans to deny HIV screenings, and the rejection of maternity care for single mothers. That is just not good legislating. It's dangerous. And I say this knowing that it doesn't have to be this way.


Mr. President, this amendment would be a mistake -- for women, for health care, for millions of Americans who don't want to go back to the days when they could be denied care for any reason. We don't need to drive another wedge in our politics. We need to drive towards that common denominator, that common ground -- and that is why this Amendment must be defeated.

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catrose Mar 2012 #1