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Rubio, Nelson split votes on birth control repeal

The U.S. Senate voted 51-48 Thursday to block Republican legislation that would have repealed an Obama administration rule requiring most health insurers to cover contraceptives for women.

The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Roy Blount, R-Mo., would have allowed employers and insurers to deny coverage for health care services beyond birth control if those companies have either religious or moral objections.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who had proposed similar legislation, voted for Blount's proposal. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., voted against it.

In a sign of the polarizing nature of the vote, Democrats immediately attacked Rubio's position.

"Marco Rubio championed a dangerous and extreme measure which would have denied women the lifesaving health care they need," said Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith. "Make no mistake: Sen. Rubio, along with Mitt Romney, tried to turn women's health care into a political football in order to advance their own extreme agenda — a shameful, partisan tactic which threatened the lives of women in our state and across our country. This dangerous legislation would have stripped a Florida woman of her ability to make her own decisions about her health care. Rubio's attack on women was rightfully defeated."

Here's Rubio's response: "The Senate’s failure to pass Senator Blunt's amendment is a setback for religious freedoms in America," he said. "Telling religious based organizations that they must, by mandate of the federal government, pay for things that that religion teaches is wrong. You may not agree with what the religion believes, but that's not the point. The point is the First Amendment still applies. Religious freedom still exists."

And Republicans fired back, singling out Nelson's vote.

"This is just another example of how Obama’s job-killing healthcare law gives the federal government – not the people of Florida – the power to decide what type of healthcare services are best for them," said Jahan Wilcox, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.