KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Birth Control Rule Draws Calls For Action In House Of Representatives

CQ HealthBeat reports that at least one House lawmaker is pushing to move a bill that is considered the companion to the Blunt amendment, which would have expanded exemptions to the Obama administration rule and was defeated late last week by the full Senate.  

CQ HealthBeat: Opponents Of Birth Control Rule Look To Possible Action on House Measure
On the heels of the defeat of a Senate GOP response to an Obama administration rule that the party says violates religious freedom, an aide for Rep. Jeff Fortenberry said Friday that the Nebraska Republican expects House leaders will move his companion bill to that measure. Leadership aides, however, said that no decision had been made about legislation addressing the rule on health insurance coverage of contraceptive services under the 2010 health care overhaul (Ethridge and Attias, 3/2).

Meanwhile, a controversy -- stemming from the rule and recent congressional hearings -- in which radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh insulted a Georgetown University Law student has drawn reaction from a various members of Congress and President Barack Obama.  

The Hill: Issa Blames Dems For Tone Of Contraception Debate
Democrats are largely to blame for the name-calling and personal insults of the contraception debate, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) charged Friday. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has spent part of his last three shows referring to a Georgetown University law student as a "slut" with "boyfriends ... lined up around the block." But Issa said Democrats are also complicit in the deteriorating rhetoric, accusing them of insulting people of faith. Issa shot back Friday against Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who had asked the Oversight Committee chairman to disavow Limbaugh's comments (Baker, 3/2).

Politico: Darrell Issa On Rush Limbaugh: Liberals Can Be Mean, Too
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has a message for the Democrats on his committee: I’ll condemn if you will. That’s what he told the committee Democrats in a letter Friday afternoon, in response to their demand that he condemn Rush Limbaugh’s attacks on Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who became a hero to reproductive rights activists after Issa would not let her testify at a hearing on the new contraceptive coverage rule (Feder, 3/2).

The Hill: Obama Jumps Into Controversy, Backs Student Against Limbaugh Attacks
Obama's decision to call the student highlights the political gold Democrats believe they have found in Limbaugh's comments, which they think could draw female voters to Obama and their party in the fall. There were also signs on Friday that Republicans are worried about Limbaugh's comments, as GOP congressional leaders distanced themselves from the remarks. Obama told Georgetown student Sandra Fluke she had been the subject of "inappropriate personal attacks" after Limbaugh referred to her as a "slut" and a "prostitute" during his show on Wednesday because of her testimony last week about the healthcare law's contraception mandate (Easley, 3/2).

The Associated Press: McCain: Limbaugh Outburst 'Totally Unacceptable'
Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain says it's "totally unacceptable" for Rush Limbaugh to call a law student a "slut" in the political furor over requiring that women get birth control coverage free of charge. Speaking Monday on the CBS program "This Morning," the Arizona senator said Limbaugh's statements were unacceptable "in every way" and "should be condemned" by people across the political spectrum (3/5).

Here's some earlier details of the dust-up -

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Limbaugh Apologizes To Law Student For Insult On Sex, Says He Intended No Personal Attack
Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh apologized Saturday to a Georgetown University law student he had branded a "slut" and "prostitute" after fellow Republicans as well as Democrats criticized him and several advertisers left his program (3/3).

The Washington Post: Sandra Fluke Says She Expected Criticism, Not Personal Attacks, Over Contraception Issue
But unlike those others who were part of a running campus controversy, Fluke became part of a heated and highly personal national debate when she agreed to testify before a congressional committee last month. Fluke said she anticipated criticism but not personal attacks from prominent pundits including Rush Limbaugh, who repeatedly has called her a "slut," and from hundreds of people who have typed even more offensive slurs on Twitter (Johnson, 3/3).

The New York Times: Limbaugh Advertisers Flee Show Amid Storm
Mr. Limbaugh has been roundly criticized for talking at length about the sex life of Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student who testified in support of the Obama administration's requirement that health insurance plans cover contraceptives for women. For three straight days he lambasted her, before saying in a statement Saturday afternoon that he did not intend to attack her personally. "I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation," he said. By the time he apologized, online protesters had been organizing for days on social networking Web sites and liberal hubs like Daily Kos (Stelter, 3/4).

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