WASHINGTON -- Republicans are trying to use President Obama's recent birth control rule to cause trouble for Democratic senatorial candidates, airing new ads against two pro-choice Democratic women who support the administration's policy.
In Wisconsin, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is out with a radio ad against Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), calling the contraception rule the "Obama-Baldwin law." In Missouri, the state Republican Party is going after Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) with a similar radio ad, calling it the "Obama-McCaskill law."
"First, they took over the banks, then they put government in charge of our health care," says the female narrator. "Now, what are liberals Barack Obama and Tammy Baldwin focused on? Regulating the Catholic Church. Obama and Baldwin want to force the Catholic Church and Americans of faith to abandon tenets of their religion, mandating that the church pay for medical procedures and drugs that go against their beliefs."
"And if the church won't comply?" the ad continues. "The Obama-Baldwin law punishes them, forcing them to pay fines and penalties just for doing what they believe is right. It's a direct attack on religious freedom."
Baldwin's support of Obama's birth control rule fits into the message being pushed by Republicans, namely, that she's too liberal for the Wisconsin electorate. In a memo sent out on Wednesday, NRSC Deputy Communications Director Lance Trover pointed to a Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel article that showed the state as having one of the highest percentages of Catholic voters amongst the swing states.
Baldwin's campaign did not return a request for comment.
In Missouri, McCaskill is facing an attack ad with almost identical language to the Baldwin one.
"Claire McCaskill cast the deciding vote to force Obamacare on Missourians. Now, Obama is using the law to launch an assault on religious liberty -- and McCaskill is once again standing with him," said Lloyd Smith, executive director of the Missouri GOP. "Missourians made their opposition to Obamacare very clear with the overwhelming passage of the Health Care Freedom Act in 2010, but Claire McCaskill is again ignoring the will of the people. This ad sends a clear message that the Obama and McCaskill's overreach is absolutely unacceptable to Missourians of faith."
"Claire believes the best way to reduce abortions is through access to birth control," said Caitlin Legacki, communications director for the Missouri Democratic Party. "She's pleased a compromise was reached that protects religious freedoms and a woman's right to get birth control through her employer's health care coverage."
The new rule stems from the Affordable Care Act. Most women employed in the U.S. will have the cost of their birth control covered with no co-pay, effective Aug. 1.
The rule exempted employers, including churches and other places of worship, whose primary purpose is imparting religious beliefs. But many religious groups argued the exemption was too narrow and should also apply to religious-affiliated organizations. The Obama administration disagreed, but gave these employers an extra year to comply with the new law.
On Friday, the White House announced that it will be rolling out an "accommodation" to address the concern of some religious groups. According to White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, religious institutions would still be required to cover contraception as part of any health care plan they offer to their employees. But they also will be offered a veritable opt-out clause. If they determine that the requirement violates their religious sensibilities, the burden would then fall on the insurance company to cover the cost.
Other senators and candidates, such as Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), have also said they are backing the administration's push for greater coverage of contraception, but some other Democratic senators and candidates -- Sens. Joe Manchin (W.V.), Bob Casey (Penn.), Bill Nelson (Fla.) and Virginia candidate Tim Kaine (Va.) -- expressed skepticism of Obama's initial announcement.
UPDATE: 4:04 p.m. -- Jon Ralston reports that the NRSC is also featuring the Obama contraception decision in a Spanish-language radio ad against Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), who is running for the U.S. Senate.