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Updated: 11 a.m.
White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew defended the president’s compromise plan on mandated insurance coverage of contraceptives in multiple appearances on Sunday talk shows.
From his comments, it was unclear whether the White House was trying to end the controversy or keep it front and center in the national conversation. Either way, Lew stood by President Barack Obama’s compromise.
“He has a very deep belief of every woman’s right to all forms of preventative health care, including contraception,” Lew said on “Fox News Sunday.” “He also has a very deep belief that it’s one of the core principles of our country that we have [to] respect the religious liberties that this country is built on. The solution that we reached is consistent with those core principles, that’s why it got the support of a range of groups,” Lew said.
On Friday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops slammed the compromise and called on Congress to pass legislation to amend the Affordable Care Act with a broader conscience exemption on issues like birth control.
The group said the new Obama plan “continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions.”
On ABC’s “This Week,” Lew acknowledged there were going to be people who didn’t like the new plan, but he stood by it.
“We didn’t expect that there would be universal support, but we do think this is the right way to go, and it’s a plan that we’re going to pursue,” he said.
On Fox, Lew seemed to leave wiggle room for the White House to revise the policy a second time.
Host Chris Wallace asked whether the White House might change the compromise again, given the bishops’ vehement objection.
“Our policy is clear,” Lew said.
“Meaning no revisions to the revisions?” Wallace asked.
“We have set out our policy,” Lew replied, enigmatically.
“And that’s it?” Wallace tried again.
“We are going to finalize it in the final rules, but I think what the president announced on Friday is a balanced approach,” Lew said.
On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would support a proposal from Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to allow any employer or insurance plan to not cover procedures they find morally objectionable.
“Yeah, if we end up having to try to overcome the president’s opposition by legislation, of course, I’d be happy to support it,” the Kentucky Republican said.
He said the Senate will vote on the proposal “as soon as possible.”
“This issue will not go away until the administration simply backs down,” he added.