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Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California says the measure's ambiguity is a "Pandora's box of problems."
In a close, 51-48 vote, the U.S. Senate has defeated the so-called Blunt amendment to the transportation bill.
The measure would have allowed employers or insurance companies to refuse health care services on religious or moral grounds, an objection to the Obama administration’s controversial birth control health coverage policy. California's Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein called the amendment “vague.”
"And in its vagary it’s a Pandora’s box of problems, because it essentially would create sort of a phony conscience clause, for four type written pages of prevention, whether it’s immunization for children, or breast exams for women. It’s not just contraception," she said.
Feinstein said she was surprised the amendment was tabled by such a narrow margin.
"It’s hard for me to understand why people would want to vote for this, because it affects children, it affects men, it affects women," she said.
The measure was an amendment to the transportation bill. Democrats characterized the amendment as an attack on women’s health; Republicans as a defense of religious freedom. Its author, Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, says the issue won’t go away. He believes the U.S. Supreme Court may have the final say.