On Thursday, the Senate will consider Senator Roy Blunt's amendment to the Senate version of the highway bill. It is the only amendment the Senate GOP will offer up.
On its surface, it is a good amendment. It will allow religious employers to opt out of the new Obamacare mandate on contraception and abortifacient drugs. But strategically, it is another lame effort by Senator Mitch McConnell to let Senate Democrats in swing states absolve themselves of any blame for what Barack Obama has done.
See, the highway bill probably is not going to pass. So Senator Blunt's amendment won't actually pass. But Senate Democrats can vote for it and then claim in their 2012 election that they too oppose the President, but alas their measure failed. At the same time, no outside groups want a vote right now. If there is a vote this week and the bill ultimately dies, the issue goes away in the press and Christian groups are only now whipping up opposition to the HHS regulation. Roy Blunt's amendment comes too soon and takes off the table an issue social conservatives care about just as Republican leaders are whispering that the issue hurts them (coincidence?).
Consider the alternative. There is another amendment Senator McConnell expressly refuses to bring up this week as an alternative — an amendment by Senator Jim DeMint for full repeal of Obamacare.
"Wait," you say, "It'd never pass." True. But neither with Roy Blunt's. The difference is that Roy Blunt's gives the Democrats cover to say they oppose the President without actually opposing the President and Jim DeMint's amendment puts many swing state Democrats in the awkward position of either reminding voters of their support of Obamacare or suddenly flipping their support to try to save their political skin.
Oh, and as a bonus, with more polling out showing a majority of Americans still oppose the individual mandate, it is a great reminder of who is on the right side of history.
But then Mitch McConnell has a history of being a bad strategist while claiming to be the Darth Vader of Senate strategists. Of course, Darth Vader did lose the Death Star twice to a rag tag group of rebels, so I guess it kind of fits.