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Senate Rejects Effort To Reverse Obama Birth Control Policy; Republican: 'This Is Tyranny'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The Senate on Thursday narrowly defeated a move to overturn President Barack Obama's policy on birth control insurance.

It was a highly partisan debate in a presidential election year that raised questions of religious freedom and women's rights, reports CBS 2's Marcia Kramer.

It was the first attempt by Congress to knock down the president's policy.

"It will force religious persons and institutions to violate their beliefs or pay a fine. This is tyranny. It is the political bullying of a religious group," Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch said.

It was a highly charged debate eight months before someone will take on the president for the White House. Senate Republicans siding with the Catholic Church and other religious groups in an attempt to overturn an Obama administration mandate that requires employers to cover the cost of contraceptives -- even when their beliefs forbid using them.

"We take it as just the latest attack in what is clearly a concerted Republican effort to attack women's health care in an election year," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Democrats argued they were protecting women's rights. Republicans argued they were attempting to protect the First Amendment right to religious freedom. Both parties used the issue to rally their bases. The 51-48 vote was close, upholding Obamacare … for now.

"The closeness of the vote shows how high the stakes are for women this year. A Republican-led Senate might pass this bill. A Republican president like Mitt Romney would definitely sign it. If Republicans keep this up they're going to drive away independent voters," New York Sen. Charles Schumer said.

This issue is not likely to go away. Already lawsuits have been filed challenging the constitutionality of the presidential mandate.

Republicans predicted it will end up in the Supreme Court.

The public is generally in favor of requiring birth control coverage for employees of religiously affiliated employers, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll Feb. 8-13.

The survey found that 61 percent favor the mandate, while 31 percent oppose it. Even Catholics, whose church strongly opposed the recent government mandate, support the requirement at about the same rate as all Americans.

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