Political Animal


March 06, 2013 9:16 AM Ghost Riders

By Ed Kilgore

Yesterday I noted that the House Republican appropriations measure for the rest of the fiscal year generally confirmed the post-sequester level of spending for most major budget categories, but contained several provisions boosting funds for assorted conservative pet rocks. As more people stare at the document, it’s also becoming clear it will have some “riders,” or non-funding-related policy initiatives that represent sops to the activist “base” for Republicans and poison pills for Democrats.

One of those “ghost riders” that has come back with a vengeance from last year’s political fights involves, of course, that great offense to patriarchs everywhere, the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate. The Hill’s Sam Baker reports:

A group of House Republicans said Tuesday that a bill to fund the federal government should include provisions targeting the contraception mandate in President Obama’s healthcare law….

“This attack on religious freedom demands immediate congressional action,” the 14 lawmakers wrote. “Nothing short of a full exemption for both nonprofit and for-profit entities will satisfy the demands of the Constitution and common sense.”

It will be interesting to see what House GOP leaders do with this demand. So far their interest in getting a leg up over the Senate in the ultimate negotiations over appropriations has kept them from placing too many howlers in their draft bill; aside from its inherently controversial nature, the problem with including a repeal of the contraception mandate in it is that it opens up the whole can of worms of Obamacare.

But as we will soon be reminded, for many, many House Republicans (and from a large percentage of conservative rank-and-file activists), you can talk all day and all night about “limited government” and spending cuts, but what really makes them get up in the morning and take up the political cudgels remains the culture wars, and the desire to go back to the days when fear of pregnancy was considered a reliable curb on women’s behavior. A large and relatively fast-moving vehicle like an omnibus appropriations bill is just too tempting a target for those who believe they are submitting America and its wicked people to God’s Will.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • jhm on March 06, 2013 9:46 AM:

    Ironic that they appeal toCommon Sense.

    I note this, as a possible product of the erstwhile days of chastity:


    "Cold-blooded analysis of adultery views life as an evolutionary contest whose winners are those individuals leaving the largest number of surviving offspring. This view helps one understand why humans reinvented adultery after the other two chimps had bypassed it.

    "People have many reasons to lie when asked whether they have committed adultery. Consequently, it is notoriously difficult to get accurate scientific information about this important subject. One of the few existing sets of hard facts emerged as a totally unexpected by-product of a medical study, performed nearly half-a-century ago for a different reason. That study's findings have never been revealed until now.

    "I recently learned those facts from the distinguished medical scientist who ran the study. (Since he does not wish to be identified in this connection, I shall refer to him as Dr X.) In the late 1940s Dr X was studying the genetics of human blood groups, which are molecules that we acquire only by inheritance. Each of us has dozens of blood-group substances on our red blood cells, and we inherit each substance either from our mother or from our father. The study's research plan was straightforward: go to the obstetrics ward of a highly respectable US hospital; collect blood samples from 1,000 newborn babies and their mothers and fathers; identify the blood groups in all the samples; and then use standard genetic reasoning to deduce the inheritance patterns. To Dr X's shock, the blood groups revealed nearly ten per cent of those babies to be the fruits of adultery! Proof of the babies' illegitimate origin was that they had one or more blood groups lacking in both alleged parents. There could be no question of mistaken maternity — the blood samples were drawn from an infant and its mother soon after the infant emerged from the mother. A blood group present in a baby but absent in its undoubted mother could only have come from its father. Absence of the blood group from the mother's husband as well showed conclusively that the baby had been sired by some other man, extramaritally. The true incidence of extramarital sex must have been considerably higher than ten per cent, since many other blood-group substances now used in paternity tests were not yet known in the 1940s, and since most bouts of intercourse do not result in conception."

    -Jared Diamond, The rise and fall of the third chimpanzee

  • Gandalf on March 06, 2013 10:04 AM:

    jhm it's pretty hard to take serios anyone who throws up a wall of smoke and mirrors. maybe I'm not smart enough to get whatever the point of your comment is but whether contraception is covered in healthcare insurance or not based on the providers religous convictions is just bull shit to quote that icon of conservative common sense Bill O. Basically what they're saying is that the individual is not to be trusted with their own religous convictions and must be told what to do.

  • ceilidth on March 06, 2013 10:07 AM:

    Every time I hear the wingers talk about contraception as a matter of religious freedom, I have to laugh cynically. Freedom for whom? When I think of freedom, I think of freedom for individuals to make their own decisions, not the "freedom" of a church or a business to get into my personal decisions. This is not about freedom; this is about the coercion of individuals to force them to follow the religious beliefs of others.

  • boatboy_srq on March 06, 2013 10:10 AM:

    “Nothing short of a full exemption for both nonprofit and for-profit entities will satisfy the demands of the Constitution and common sense.”

    IOW, the Reichwing wants laws for those Other people - and exemptions for themselves. Seems they're confusing liberty with licence.

  • c u n d gulag on March 06, 2013 10:14 AM:

    Conservatives want to limit the size of government, until it's just barely big enough to be used as a chastity belt to cover women's vagina's.

  • Zorro on March 06, 2013 12:07 PM:

    Dear House Republicans-

    My particular religious beliefs require weekly human sacrifices of wingnut conservatives. Given that, as you say, "This attack on religious freedom demands immediate congressional action," I request- no demand- to be allowed to ritually slaughter one member of your caucus weekly.

    Thank you for your courageous stand for religious freedom,

  • zandru on March 06, 2013 2:18 PM:

    I would really like for Congressional Democrats to get onto this one.

    ** Debunk the bogus "religious freedom" argument - tell the bishops and the Baptist snake handlers that it's not the gummint's job to enforce their church's morals upon its followers (and all innocent bystanders). If a church's leaders can't convince its own laity to "behave", then too bad.

    ** Come out STRONGLY in favor of contraception, by anyone desiring to use it. When the ugly issue of abortion comes up, talk "freedom." Quote (and mis-quote) liberally from rightwing icons like Reagan. Note that there's something seriously wrong with limiting the concept of "freedom" to white men.

    ** Permit NO RESTRICTIONS in contraceptive coverage in PPACA.

    ** When necessary, question the moral authority of an institution that has covered up and even defended priest pedophilia for the last several decades.

    Hey! I just realized that I now have a female Congressman. Plus, she's a good Democrat, and has spent much of her career watchdogging the medical-industrial complex. Time to send her an email and perhaps a followup hardcopy...