On the House floor this afternoon, John Boehner made clear the House won’t stand for the HHS mandate vowing: “If the president does not reverse the Department’s attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must.”
In recent days, Americans of every faith and political persuasion have mobilized in objection to a rule put forth by the Obama Administration that constitutes an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country. This rule would require faith-based employers – including Catholic charities, schools, universities, and hospitals – to provide services they consider immoral. Those services include sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and devices, and contraception. In imposing this requirement, the federal government has drifted dangerously beyond its constitutional boundaries, encroaching on religious freedom in a manner that affects millions of Americans and harms some of our nation’s most vital institutions.
If the president does not reverse the Department’s attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must.
The House will approach this matter fairly and deliberately, through regular order and the appropriate legislative channels. Because it has primary jurisdiction on the issues involved, the Energy & Commerce Committee is taking the lead on the legislative process that will be necessary to enact an effective and appropriate solution.
Chairman Upton convened a hearing last year and began laying the groundwork for legislative action when this flawed rule was first proposed. I welcome his efforts to consider all possible options as his committee proceeds with its efforts. This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country must not stand, and will not stand.
In turn, Upton announced in a statement that the committee plans to “to move quickly on legislation to reverse the controversial decision and restore longstanding conscience protections.”
The statement continued:
Americans from across the ideological spectrum are speaking with one voice against this unprecedented and unprovoked encroachment on religious freedom. From faith leaders to opinion leaders, a loud and growing chorus of voices are demanding action to restore the conscience protections threatened by this administration’s misguided mandates,” said Upton. “The Energy and Commerce Committee began examining this controversial proposal when it was first offered last year, meeting privately with the administration and urging them to reconsider this threat to religious freedom. I am deeply disappointed with the recent decision to ignore long-standing protections of religious conscience, and I plan to move quickly, working with my colleagues who share the commitment to the First Amendment, to advance legislation that restores the protections that are now imperiled.”
The Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on November 2, 2011, examining the threat of health care mandates to conscience rights and access to care. Despite widespread concern about how this new policy would infringe on the rights of religious employers, HHS recently affirmed its decision to move forward with the policy. In response, Upton is preparing to move quickly on legislation to reverse the controversial decision and restore longstanding conscience protections. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is scheduled to testify before the committee on March 1, 2012, giving members an opportunity to question the secretary directly on this controversial rule. In the coming weeks, the Health Subcommittee and Full Energy and Commerce Committee will vote on legislation to reverse the administration’s mandate and restore conscience protections.
UPDATE: Video of the Boehner floor remarks here: