Speaking to conservative bloggers this morning prior to his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., Florida senator Marco Rubio continued to make the case against the Obama administration's mandate that all private insurance plans must cover contraception, sterilization procedures, and abortifacients without any cost to their employees.
"This is not about contraception. This is about a constitutional right of religious expression and religious freedom in the United States," Rubio said. "This is not a partisan issue. This isn't even left versus right," he continued, pointing to the growing opposition to the mandate by Democrats such as Senators Bob Casey, Ben Nelson, Joe Manchin, and Joe Lieberman.
One blogger mentioned Mitch Daniels's proposed "social truce" and asked if Republicans should say, in light of the administration's latest provocation, "We didn't want to talk about social issues, but this administration is so radical we have to talk about this?"
"First of all, I don't think social issues ever go away because you can't have a strong country and you can't have a strong economy if you don't have strong people," Rubio replied. "The way you get strong people is family and the institutions of society that help families raise strong people of good character. And that includes churches, synagogues, faith-based organizations and the like. That being said, I don't believe this debate ultimately is a social issue. This debate is not about whether contraception is right or wrong. This is about a constitutional principle."
Rubio also discussed two different bills introduced in Congress to reverse the administration's mandate. The bill Rubio introduced recently would establish a religious exemption for coverage of contraception or sterilization, whereas another bill introduced in 2011 by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry and Sen. Roy Blunt (Rubio is a co-sponsor) would more broadly protect employers from covering any service to which they have a religious or moral objection. (The editors of National Review weigh in on the merits of the two bills here.)
"I'm for a broader approach to it, but we have to pass it. In the Senate we need 60 votes," he said. But he was unsure that either bill could get that many votes. "I don't know if [my bill] can get to 60, but we're working on it," he said. "If the other approach, the broader approach which I support and I think is a better policy approach can get the votes to pass, I'll be for that."
“The way we look at [human rights atrocities] in history and condemn them — this era will be condemned for this, I have no doubt about it,” Rubio said. “Our job is to accelerate the process of getting there, to ensure that sooner rather than later — God willing, in our lifetime — we can arrive to a consciousness in this nation that this is wrong, that the right to life is a fundamental one that trumps virtually any other right I can imagine, because without it none of the other rights matter.”
Rubio compared today’s pro-life movement to abolitionism, the civil rights movement and women’s suffrage.
“At the end of the day our nation can never truly become what it fully was intended to be unless it deals with this issue squarely,” he said. “America cannot truly fulfill its destiny unless this issue is resolved. It’s that important.”
You can watch Rubio's full speech here.