NBC’s Alexander Ponders With Wasserman Schultz: 'What Should the Administration Do Now?' About Contraception

On Monday’s Andrea Mitchell Reports on MSNBC, substitute host and NBC national correspondent  Peter Alexander gave Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz the floor to sound off on the rulings from the Supreme Court on religious freedom and public employee unions. Not surprisingly, he refused to challenge the DNC Chair or even play devil’s advocate. Nor did Alexander bring on a Republican or conservative guest for the opposing perspective both before or after the segment. [MP3 audio here; Video below]

Much of the segment centered around the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby that their religious freedom is not something that should be sacrificed when choosing whether or not to provide certain forms of birth control to its employees. At one point, Alexander sympathized with Wasserman Schultz’s cause by asking:

So then, let's discuss the practical challenges that the administration now faces and what you think their resolution to this should be. What should the administration do now? Should they pay for coverage for these individuals who would no longer be covered through their companies much the way as individuals [and] employees of churches and church groups are covered?

Wasserman Schultz replied that she is “confident that the Obama administration is now going to go back and revisit how the rule was issued” to ensure that all women can receive contraception. 

Further, the Florida congresswoman declared that the decision was “a stifling decision for American women” that would allow for “companies that want to claim a religious objection” to “push the envelope” in refusing to provide “so many different types of healthcare.” Alexander allowed her to peddle not only that, but to inform the audience that “there are organized religions that oppose health care treatment in general.”

After gushing that “[y]ou know a thing or two about politics,” Alexander wondered how the DNC will react to the ruling going forward toward the midterm elections in November. Wasserman Schultz responded with the following: 

It sure is a rallying cry. It's very clear to American women yet again that Republicans want to do everything they can to have the long hand of government and now the long hand of business reach into a woman's body and make health care decisions for her. That's totally unacceptable. 

When asking her thoughts on the other ruling handed down by the Supreme Court today on public employee unions, Alexander wondered:

How challenging is the environment for unions in this country right and how dire is their future as a result of, albeit, a narrow decision but other decisions like that one today?

Wasserman Schultz said that it would make the ability for public employee unions to operate “more challenging,” but confessed that “it could have been worse.”


The entire segment is transcribed below. 

MSNBC

Andrea Mitchell Reports

June 30, 2014

12:17 p.m. Eastern

 

PETER ALEXANDER: Florida congresswoman Deborah Wasserman Schultz chairs the Democratic National Committee. She joins us now in studio to discuss the Hobby Lobby decision. We just heard a moment ago from Kathy Ruse. She’s a lawyer for the conservative Family Research Council. You heard what she had to say. She said, simply put, that the Obama administration is overreaching again and that's what the Court was pushing back against. Right now, what is your initial take on the decision today? 

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: This is a stifling decision for American women. It's a decision that blocks women from being able to make their own health care decisions, not just reproductive health care decisions, but health care decisions in general. And what it means is that now, despite the court trying to narrowly construct the decision, now it means that you have privately held companies, which, by the way, let's not – let’s not cast that aside. These are companies that employ thousands of people. Now, you'll see those companies that want to claim a religious objection really trying to push the envelope on so many different types of health care. I mean, you know, Peter, there are organized religions that oppose health care treatment in general. 

ALEXANDER: And this is really what your concern is, the potential implications of a decision like this. So finish that thought.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: This is deeply troubling because you have organized religions that oppose health care, period. So, if you have an employer who is a member of an organized religion and they decide, you know, I wouldn't provide health care to my own family because I object religiously, I'm not going to allow any kind of health care treatment and then they could push the envelope even more specifically. So it's deeply troubling. But let's keep in mind that birth control specifically is used by women, not just to space out their pregnancies, but to treat disease and illness and endometriosis. You know, really serious menstrual cramps. The life function, day-to-day for women, is dramatically impacted by this decision. 

ALEXANDER: So then, let's discuss the practical challenges that the administration now faces and what you think their resolution to this should be. What should the administration do now? Should they pay for coverage for these individuals who would no longer be covered through their companies much the way as individuals [and] employees of churches and church groups are covered? 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I'm confident the Obama administration is now going to go back and revisit how the rule was issued to attempt to make sure that we can cover all women when they want to make the decision to use birth control. Birth control costs about $600 a year. That's real money for so many people and when you are struggling on how to pay for your groceries, if you also have to, even with health insurance coverage, pay for your birth control, you are probably going to skip it and roll the dice and that financially impacts women. It prevents them from being able to join the middle class. I mean, let's keep in mind, birth control has affected women economically positively since its creation. And this is going to set – turn the dial back. 

ALEXANDER: You know a thing or two about politics. You head up the DNC. I want to get a sense right now. To Republicans, they view this as a rallying cry. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: [Laughter]

ALEXANDER: They think it may be a big motivator for people at the polls four months from now as we approach the November 2014 elections. What's the take from your side of the aisle? 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: It sure is a rallying cry. It's very clear to American women yet again that Republicans want to do everything they can to have the long hand of government and now the long hand of business reach into a woman's body and make health care decisions for her. That's totally unacceptable. This election, the election in 2016, particularly, here is – here is – we can underscore for American women why who we elect president and who controls the Congress is so significant for American women. Republicans want to constrict and restrict women's choices, and Democrats want to make sure that women have the ability to make their own choices. 

ALEXANDER: My time is limited, so I wanted to get your opinion quickly. The second major ruling today was a ruling specifically focused on unions, what appeared to be a setback for some public employee labor unions. How challenging is the environment for unions in this country right and how dire is their future as a result of, albeit, a narrow decision but other decisions like that one today?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, the Harris decision clearly makes the environment more challenging for unions, but, you know, it could have been worse. I mean, you have 26,000 union members who -- 26,000 employees who are impacted by this decision. It's unacceptable that they can get all the benefits of collective bargaining yet don't have to contribute to – to making sure they are represented. But thankfully it wasn't more broad and you do have the ability for states to compel employees to pay union dues to be represented by a collective bargaining unit. 

ALEXANDER: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, nice to visit with you. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thanks. You too.

ALEXANDER: Thanks for your time today. 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you so much.

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is a news analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division