The Hobby Lobby case, in which the arts and crafts chain sued over Obamacare's requirement that employers provide health insurance that covers emergency contraceptives, is a clear indication the Obama administration has little regard for religious freedom, says Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review.
"Part of the Hobby Lobby argument is why are you applying this mandate to us when we have a conscientious objection to some of these drugs, when you've waived all sorts of other people and grandfathered plans that don't have this requirement for tons of secular companies," he told Newsmax TV's John Bachman and J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum."
"So, it makes no sense that you would so desperately want to apply the mandate to Hobby Lobby unless you're doing it on principle, unless you don't truly value people's religious motivation in the public sphere," he said Monday.
Oral arguments in the case, [Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen] Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, were heard before the Supreme Court on March 25.
Lowry said he was encouraged by the tone of the questioning but does not know how that will affect the final decision.
"I was also encouraged by the tone of the questioning over the big Obamacare case, over the constitutionality of the individual mandate, and we know how that turned out. So, it's very difficult to read the tea leaves from this oral argument," he explained.
"Hobby Lobby has a very strong case that the administration here has violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which says you can't substantially burden someone's religion unless there's a compelling governmental interest at stake and unless there's no other less burdensome way to go about it.
"Well, if you're grandfathering other plans from this mandate, how compelling can your interests really be? And if your end goal is to more widely spread contraception, there are other ways to do it rather than forcing employers that have a conscientious objection to go and pay for this stuff."
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Turning to this year's midterm elections, Lowry said the GOP has an even chance of taking back the Senate.
"They need six seats, the Republicans, assuming they hold all their incumbents in the seats they already hold. Which seems a pretty good assumption; there might be a few exceptions there, but that seems pretty safe. And then you can count to three or four pretty easily.
"Everyone seems to think they're going to get Montana, they're going to get South Dakota, they're going to get West Virginia, which are either open seats or have an appointed incumbent that hasn't been there long," he said.
"Then to get to six, you've got to knock off some incumbents, and Mark Pryor in Arkansas is extremely vulnerable. I would say he's probably gone. That gets you to four.
"And then you need to find the two someplace else, and there are plenty of possibilities. Kay Hagan in North Carolina is in terrible shape, Mary Landrieu's under threat in Louisiana, Mark Begich in Alaska.
"But knocking off an incumbent is a really tough thing to do, and if you're going to do more than one or two, you need a little bit of a national wave to build, and you see that wave, but whether it's going to run, building potentially, but whether it's going to run all the way through November, we don't know."
Still, Lowry said it would be a big upset if Republicans don’t take the Senate.
"The expectations maybe have been too heightened, but the expectation has been that they will, and the stakes are so big because if the Republicans take the Senate, it's effectively the end of the Obama administration.
"So, that's a really, really big deal, and if Republicans fall a little short of that, it's going to be a tough one," he predicted.
"You still have the House, which has blocking power, but if you have the Senate, as well, you can really pass legislation all the way through Congress and put the president in a very awkward position, having to veto things . . . It's going to be the president of the United States that's going to have to veto it, and then you can use those next two years to kind of build the case against Obama's style of liberalism in the run-up to the big election in 2016."
As for what he would like to see as the first opportunity for Obama to veto legislation if the GOP does take control of the Senate, Lowry said, "Some people have suggested — this would be very clever, very telling — if you basically take the words from the Constitution about how the president should faithfully execute the laws and — this applies to Obamacare or something of that nature – pass it through Congress, what is he going to do? Is he going to veto something like that?
"So, it would be very awkward, and there's just a whole host of things of that nature. Well, repeal the individual mandate, repeal the employment mandate, which they keep putting off. I want to see the whole thing repealed. But you can do these shots and send them to the president and show his hypocrisy, and there's really no 'fix' that he'd be willing to sign."
Asked who in the GOP has impressed him the most over the last three months as a potential presidential contender in 2016, Lowry replied, "I'd say Marco Rubio has been very, just a font of new policy ideas, which is important."
"Over the last year or so, the guy who has helped himself the most is clearly Ted Cruz. He rose from just a very, extremely junior, freshman center to a national figure of consequence, and he has probably more of a claim than anyone else at the moment to the conservative base, which is obviously very important in the 2016 race. I have no doubt he's going to run and is going to be a big factor."
Lowry said that Rand Paul might lose support because of his isolationist foreign policy.
"Over the last several years, it has been a point of view and an attitude on foreign policy that's been in the ascendancy of the Republican Party. What I think shows the limit of how far it can go is Russia. He was wrong-footed on the Crimea invasion, initially talking about people going out of their way to tweak Russia, as if there's something we had done to make this happen," he said.
"The reaction of the Republican Party to the Crimea invasion just shows to me that, again, the central Republican reflex on foreign policy is strength. Especially when you can talk about something that involves strength without necessarily involving intervention, which everyone is exhausted with at the moment. That's where I think Rand Paul is going to have a bit of a problem."
As for his own views on U.S. policy toward Russia, Lowry said, "My fear is, and a fear of many other people is, that Putin is not going to stop here. What he's doing right at the moment is calculating his next move. He's calculating it based on the Western reaction, which has been much too tenuous for my taste so far.
"You've targeted some individuals, kicked them out of the G-8, that's all good, but it has to go much broader and deeper than that and really hurt if you want to have some stopping power," Lowry said.
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