WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senate candidate Linda Lingle, a Hawaii Republican, has broken with the majority of her party on the Blunt Amendment, saying she does not support its "broadly crafted language."
The amendment, written by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), would have overridden the Obama administration's new contraception coverage rule and allowed any employer to refuse to cover any kind of health care service by citing "moral reasons." It failed in the Senate last week on a vote of 51 to 48.
Although Obama's contraception mandate includes a broad exemption for churches and faith-based employers, Senate Republicans argue that requiring employers, even non-religious ones, to cover health services that they oppose is an attack on religious freedom.
On Tuesday, Lingle held a fundraiser at which Blunt was a "special guest."
Both the Democratic pro-choice political action committee EMILY's List and the Senate campaign of Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) -- who is widely expected to face Lingle in the general election -- criticized Lingle for holding the fundraiser.
"For all her public talk about 'moderation' and 'bipartisanship,' Linda Lingle is privately cozying up to right-wing extremists like Roy Blunt and Sarah Palin to help fund her campaign -- and those are the interests she'd be serving if elected to the U.S. Senate," said Betsy Lin, Hirono's campaign manager, in an email to supporters.
Late Tuesday, Lingle campaign manager Bob Lee sent out a statement hitting Hirono's team for launching a "personal attack" against his candidate and saying that the former governor does indeed oppose the Blunt Amendment.
"If the Hirono camp had done its homework, it would have known that Governor Lingle and Mazie Hirono share the same position on the Blunt Amendment -- neither supports the broadly crafted language of the amendment," he wrote. "But this is where the comparison stops. Governor Lingle knows it hurts the state of Hawaii to make the kind of personal attacks Hirono has made against United States Senator Roy Blunt."
Lingle recently said that she would like to be a moderate lawmaker in the mold of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who will not be seeking reelection in 2012.
Snowe voted against the Blunt Amendment. She was the only Republican to do so, although Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) -- who is also considered to be one of the GOP senators most supportive of access to abortion services -- said on Sunday that she regretted voting for it.
In 2006, Lingle signed a pro-abortion rights bill removing a "90-day residential requirement for women seeking an abortion in Hawaii and a requirement that all abortions be performed only in a hospital."
On Monday, Blunt went to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. to receive an honor for his service to education. An audience member booed him and shouted, "Blunt is the devil!"
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