Mr. Boehner, a practicing Catholic who has been an outspoken critic of policies that he believes infringe on religious beliefs and freedoms, took the House floor to outline his views on the health rule and the remedy he will seek in a rare appearance by the speaker during the daily period when rank-and-file members are permitted to speak for one minute on pet issues.
“In recent days, Americans of every faith and political persuasion have mobilized in objection to a rule put forth by the Obama administration that constitutes an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country,” said Mr. Boehner, standing before a group of roughly 25 members who were in the chamber to give their own one-minute speeches.
“In imposing this requirement,” he added, “the federal government is violating a First Amendment right that has stood for more than two centuries. And it is doing so in a manner that affects millions of Americans and harms some of our nation’s most vital institutions.”
The Obama administration has been trying to carefully defend the new policy.
“We want to work with all these organizations to implement this policy in a way that is as sensitive to their concerns as possible,” Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said Wednesday at the daily press briefing. “But let’s be clear: We are committed, the president is committed, to ensuring that women have access to contraception without paying any extra costs, no matter where they work.”
The rule, however, has attracted increasing criticism from religious groups, and Congressional Republicans have stepped up their attacks in the past day. The fact that the battle over the ruling has now spread to both sides of the Capitol Rotunda — several senators took to the floor Tuesday night to speak about the issue — demonstrates the increasing prominence that debates over social issues have in Congress as members head into an election year.
“If the president does not reverse the department’s attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must,” Mr. Boehner said, adding that the House Energy and Commerce Committee would take the lead on the legislative process to beat back the administration’s decision. ”This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country cannot stand, and will not stand,” he said.