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Democrats Fast-Track Bill To Override Hobby Lobby Decision

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Senate Democrats are expediting legislation that would override the Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby case and compel for-profit employers to cover the full range of contraception for their employees, as required by the Affordable Care Act.

The bill, which is co-authored by Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), would ban for-profit companies from refusing to cover any federally guaranteed health benefits for religious reasons, including all 20 forms of contraception detailed in the Affordable Care Act. It would preserve the contraception mandate's current exemption for churches and accommodation for non-profit religious organizations, such as certain hospitals and schools.

A Senate aide told HuffPost that the bill will be introduced Wednesday morning and will go directly to the Senate floor as early as next week, without being considered in committee.

"The U.S. Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision opened the door to unprecedented corporate intrusion into our private lives. Coloradans understand that women should never have to ask their bosses for a permission slip to access common forms of birth control or other critical health services," Udall said in a statement. "My common-sense proposal will keep women's private health decisions out of corporate board rooms, because your boss shouldn't be able to dictate what is best for you and your family."

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last week that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects closely held corporations like Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft supply stores, from having to cover birth control in their health insurance plans if they morally object to it. Hobby Lobby's evangelical owners object to covering four out of the 20 forms of contraception listed in the Affordable Care Act because they believe those methods are akin to abortion.

Murray and Udall's bill would override the Supreme Court's decision and state that no federal law, including RFRA, permits for-profit employers to refuse to comply with federal health coverage requirements. The senators worked with the Obama administration, other Democratic lawmakers and reproductive rights advocates to draft the legislation.

“Your health care decisions are not your boss’ business,” Murray said on Tuesday. “Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women’s access to health care, I will.”

Even if the bill passes the Senate, it is unlikely to get a vote in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. But Democrats hope it will at least make senators go on record supporting or opposing universal birth control coverage.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) vowed to bring the measure up "sooner rather than later," and force opponents to vote on it before the current Senate work period ends in early August.

"This Hobby Lobby decision is outrageous," Reid said Wednesday in a Capitol Hill news conference just off the Senate floor. "People are going to have to walk down here and vote, and if they vote with the five men on the Supreme Court, I think they are going to be treated unfavorably come November with the elections."

UPDATE: 5:20 p.m. -- Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Diana Degette (D-Colo.) and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) will introduce the companion bill in the House.

“This bill will ensure that employee access to critical health services is not at the mercy of their bosses’ religious beliefs,” the lawmakers said in a statement. “Congress never intended to allow corporate employers to block employee access to critical preventive services like birth control."

Michael McAuliff contributed reporting.

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