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Sen. Patty Murray's proposed bill would override Hobby Lobby decision

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Working with the Obama administration, a group of congressional Democrats announced Tuesday they have developed a bill designed to sidestep the June 30 Supreme Court decision to treat family-owned corporations like individuals and allow for-profit businesses like Hobby Lobby to opt-out over religious objections to the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that says employers must pay for employees’ contraceptives.

The Supreme Court based its decision on an Act of Congress, therefore, say Democrats, Congress can change the law on which the Court based its decision.

If approved, the legislation would require corporations like Hobby Lobby to pay for contraception coverage, like all the other corporations, as part of preventative services, because they are not allowed to discriminate against women.

The bill’s lead sponsor Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) had this to say about the proposal as reported in the New York Times:

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

The Helping Working Families Afford Child Care Act basically enhances existing legislation Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit by increasing eligible expenses and expanding credit to low-income participants.

Murray’s bill still retains the provision in the ACA for nonprofit corporations; charities, hospitals, colleges and such to maintain religious objections if they choose.

“Updating the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to reflect the needs of families in today’s economy would be a critical step forward on our larger effort to make sure working parents can succeed on the job and at home, and would help break down one of the biggest barriers many mothers face to re-entering the workforce,” Sen. Murray said.

Under the bill, which can be seen in its entirety here, “low and middle-income families would be eligible for a tax credit equal to 20 percent of child care expenses up to $8,000 for one child and $16,000 for two or more children, an increase from the current eligible costs of $3,000 and $6,000, respectively. The legislation would also index the new expense limits for inflation to ensure the reformed credit does not lose value over time." According to Murray's press release, "These thresholds have not been increased since 2001.”

Last Monday, the conservative leaning Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit stating the birth control mandate in Obamacare violated its constitutional rights with respect to its religious beliefs based on the 1993 Religious Freedom and Restoration Act.

The Court’s decision brought gleeful accolades from conservatives, Republicans and the religious right, while sparking protests of outrage from women, civil rights and privacy groups.

The new legislation could be introduced on the Senate floor for consideration as early as next week.

Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are the other bill sponsors.

For the full text of the bill click here.

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