A Catholic political action group is targeting the 13 Democratic senators who supported the contraception mandate and is making plans to defeat those who are up for reelection in November.
"Faithful Catholics should take the opportunity to thank those Senators supporting our religious liberties," said Matt Smith, president of the Catholic Advocate, a group that encourages Catholics to be active in the political process. "It is our duty as laity to hold those who did not support our values accountable and vote our conscience when the time comes."
On Thursday, the U.S. Senate, by a vote of 51-48, defeated the effort led by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to pass the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act as an amendment to pending legislation. The amendment would have allowed employers to opt out of the Obama administration's health care mandate – which requires coverage of contraception, abortifacients and sterilization for employees.
Thirteen Catholic senators, all of whom were Democrats, joined the majority, voting against the amendment.
"By consenting to the disastrous HHS mandate, the U.S. Senate has taken the unprecedented step to deny our religious liberties instead of defending the Constitution," said Smith. "It is disappointing to witness a group of senators misled on this issue at the expense of one of our key founding principles."
However, two Democrat Senators, Bob Casey (Pa.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) voted with nine other Catholic Republicans in favor of the measure.
The vote on the amendment has kept the issue of religious freedom on the forefront of voters' minds. Democrats are highlighting the fact that a woman's health should take precedence over religious beliefs. Republicans counter, saying religious liberties should be the first consideration.
The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act proposed by Blunt amended the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act "to permit a health plan to decline coverage of specific items and services that are contrary to the religious beliefs of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan or the purchaser or beneficiary (in the case of individual coverage) without penalty."
But unlike the House of Representatives where all members run for reelection every two years, the 100 members of the Senate serve six-year terms and only four of the 13 Catholic Democrats who opposed the bill are up for reelection in 2012.
They include Senators Clair McCaskill (Mo.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Maria Cantwell (Wash.). Here is the link to how all Catholic Senators voted on the amendment.
The two Democrats who sided with Republicans in voting for the bill were Senators Casey of Pennsylvania and Manchin of West Virginia are also up for reelection in 2012.
Catholic Advocates does keep a "scorecard" of members of Congress and all 15, including Manchin and Casey, have an average score of "zero." Catholic Republicans serving in the Senate have an average score of 93 percent, according to the group's website.
The Christian Post attempted to contact Smith but could not reach him prior to publication.