Jolt: Senate Coalition Faces Political Challenge After House Passes RPA, Again.
House sends Reproductive Parity Act, and political bombshell, to senate.
The Democratic state house passed the Reproductive Parity Act today, 54-44. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Eileen Cody (D-34, West Seattle), mandates that any insurer that covers maternity care must also cover abortions. Pro-choice groups are concerned that Obamacare rules have created an opportunity for insurers to bail on abortion coverage.
Conservatives object to the RPA because they say there's no room for an individual's religious objections—what if an individual doesn't want to subsidize abortion coverage, they ask. Liberals respond that one person's religious objections should not dictate other people's choices.
(Editorializing here, but the proponents of the bill have a point: Insurance works because, thanks to economies of scale, group demands set the standard—this is also how democracy works, and once you get into the slippery slope of customized dissent, you risk unraveling the social contract. I don't, for example, like subsidizing other people's corporate Ag, climate-change diets with my health care premiums, but...)
Today's house vote puts the political dynamics of the senate's Republican-dominated Majority Coalition Caucus on display.
For the record: Obamacare dictates that at least one multistate insurance carrier in the health care exchanges must not provide abortion coverage. In Washington's Obamacare exchange, Premera Blue Cross fits that bill and offers eight plans that don't cover abortions.
Additionally, under the RPA, religiously affiliated insurers can opt out as long as they direct customers to a plan that does cover abortion.
Constitutional politics aside, today's house vote, the third time they've passed it in three years, has put the political dynamics of the senate's Republican-dominated Majority Coalition Caucus on display.
MCC leader Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina), a dissident Democrat who bailed on his caucus last year to join the GOP, has held his coalition together by pushing a conservative economic agenda while simultaneously blocking the Democrats' social agenda, Exhibit A being the RPA. Tom, who has a pro-choice rating in the past, says he personally supports the RPA.
Referring to Tom's appearance at a pro-choice rally last year—before he eventually blocked the RPA—Cody said today: "It’s not enough to speak at a rally or send out a press release in favor of reproductive freedom. Leadership isn’t about doing what is easy – it’s about doing what is right. The Senate’s failure to take up this legislation in any serious manner shows a clear lack of fortitude from its leader. ... While a majority of the Senate also supports it, I can only expect that the RPA will suffer the same fate as it did last year. Coverage for reproductive services will remain unclear and Washington women will pay the price."
Even though there are enough raw votes in the senate when you add up the Democrats (supposedly including Tom) and a few socially liberal Republicans, to pass the RPA, Tom, as the senate majority leader, has refused, at the behest of the Republican caucus, to bring it to the floor for a vote.
Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44, Lake Stevens), who is sponsoring the senate version of the RPA, has complained that a "minority ... controls the senate." His bill has not been scheduled for a hearing yet and the senate cutoff for policy bills is Friday.
Tom has been pressed by pro-choice groups this year to bring the RPA to the floor, but he has said, candidly, that it's not worth the "political capital." The MCC, with Tom as a cosponsor, did pass another Democratic priority this session that they blocked last year, the DREAM Act, which gives college financial aid to children of undocumented parents.
We have a call in to Sen. Tom, who is facing a pro-choice Democratic challenger in November—Joan McBride, the former mayor of Kirkland.