Thursday, March 1, 2012 | 11:02 a.m.
Sen. Dean Heller moved quickly to define the politics of his vote Thursday for the so-called Blunt amendment, portraying it as a vote for religious freedom and against “Obamacare.”
Heller voted not to table the amendment, which would have allowed employers to opt out of health care mandates, including contraception, if they had moral or religious objections. The amendment eventually was tabled on a 51-48 vote.
Heller, locked in one of the most-watched Senate races in the country, said he “never had a second thought on this one,” even though he knew his opponent, Rep. Shelley Berkley, and the Democratic machine would rev up to pummel him. (Indeed, the “war on women” releases came fast and furious from Berkley, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Nevada Democratic Party.)
Heller asserted that he has “no problem” with the current law and that his vote was only about “Obamacare” and its mandates. “This, to me, was all about ‘Obamacare,’” Heller told me. “This is not about contraception because he’s trying to change the current law.”
Heller also indicated that he understood that Democrats were almost gleeful he voted a way that allowed them to lampoon him as hostile to women.
“I have no doubt the politics can play both sides,” Heller said by phone – his call to me and other media folks shows he knows what campaign kindling this provides to his match-ready foes.
I wondered if Heller had considered that despite the moral and religious objections being considered that most women in most of those religions were still using birth control. “Certainly,” he replied. “So we should provide as much access as possible. This country spends billions of dollars every year providing access to contraception, access to health clinics.”
Heller also said he believes this is just a scare tactic by Berkley et. al. because there is no epidemic in the private sector of employers denying access to contraception: “Are we having that argument today? This is the integrity of the private sector in America. I believe most employers do provide it.”
And so we see the political calculus unfurled: Berkley sees a way to use this vote to create a wedge with women and Heller sees a way to reinforce the congresswoman’s support for the unpopular “Obamacare.”
And so it will go until November….