House Speaker John Boehner, escalating the birth control access controversy, said in a rare floor speech today that the House would act legislatively to roll back the Administration’s policy of universal access, particularly as it relates to religiously affiliated institutions. The video of the short floor speech is above; the full text is below.

In recent days, Americans of every faith and political persuasion have mobilized in objection to a rule put forward by the Obama Administration that constitutes an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country.

This rule would require faith-based employers – including Catholic charities, schools, universities, and hospitals – to provide services they believe are immoral. Those services include sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and devices, and contraception.

In imposing this requirement, the federal government has drifted dangerously beyond its constitutional boundaries, encroaching on religious freedom in a manner that affects millions of Americans and harms some of our nation’s most vital institutions.

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.

The House will approach this matter fairly and deliberately, through regular order and the appropriate legislative channels.

Because it has primary jurisdiction on the issues involved, the Energy & Commerce Committee is taking the lead on the legislative process that will be necessary to enact an effective and appropriate solution. Chairman Upton convened a hearing last year and began laying the groundwork for legislative action when this flawed rule was first proposed. I welcome his efforts to consider all possible options as his committee proceeds with its work.

This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country must not stand, and will not stand.

In reality, the religious exemptions in the regulation are the same as in 28 other states, including Massachusetts, where then-Governor Mitt Romney presided over such a birth control insurance mandate. A handful of states offer no religious exemption whatsoever to employers for providing insurance that includes full coverage of birth control without a co-pay.

But Republicans see an avenue of attack, and clearly Boehner will go for it. It’s unclear whether the legislation will simply expand the religious exemption or seek to roll back the birth control insurance mandate entirely. We’ll have to see what comes out of the Energy and Commerce Committee on that.

Female advisers in the White House reportedly convinced the President to support the mandate, with male advisers, particularly Catholic ones with no real ties to health care policy (like deputy national security advisor Denis McDonough), opposed. But there are concerns that the Administration will seek a compromise or capitulation on the issue, as pressure from religious groups has grown. The House Republicans just add to that pressure. Here’s Digby:

If this keeps up, I’ll be surprised if they don’t do the big el-foldo and try to move on. They obviously do not have their minds wrapped around the idea that these issues are going to be in play. Why, I don’t know. They are always in play — because the right is savvy about when they have an opening and they are always ready to walk through it. And since the economy seems to be improving a bit and they know they are probably going to nominate someone whose bonafides are very suspect in this area (which will dampen turnout for their congressional true believers) they need to put something on the menu that will get them to vote. This stuff works for them.

A lot of people feel very sure that the administration will stick because they know that the voters are on their sides. And they are. Aside from the exceedingly important elite Catholic male vote, it’s doubtful that any of the president’s potential voters are going to be scared off by the government mandating that birth control be part of the health care law. (As Maddow pointed out last night, these right wingers couldn’t get fetal personhood passed in Mississippi.) But that’s no guarantee they won’t back off anyway. The Republican Catholic Bishops rightly sense weakness and they’re going to push it. Skepticism is the best position in any case, but history shows that when it comes to women’s issues in particular, the Democrats have just not been willing to hold the line. It’s death by a thousand cuts and the GOP is more than willing to play it out one little betrayal at a time.

Planned Parenthood and other groups are massing to fortify the White House on this issue, and warn them about the consequences of folding in an election year.

UPDATE: More from Sam Stein.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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