The entire Democratic caucus and three Republicans supported the bill, but could not muster the 60 votes necessary to cut off debate and the vote failed 56 to 43.
Sen. Patty Murray of Washington authored the legislation, which was cosponsored by Udall and more than 40 Democrats.
“The actions of a minority of lawmakers today … show some of my colleagues are not serious about addressing the devastating effect the Supreme Court decision will have. That’s disconcerting, but I am far from finished,” Udall said in a statement.
The Colorado Democrat participated in Capitol Hill events with Democratic leaders and spoke in favor of the bill numerous times since its introduction last week. Udall even skipped his own fundraising event hosted by President Barack Obama in Denver to attend a press conference introducing the bill.
The legislation would have reversed the Supreme Court’s June 30 ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The decision allowed owners of closely-held companies who object on religious grounds to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement they help pay for insurance that includes birth-control and the morning after pill.
Senate Republicans and a Washington Post fact checker noted that Democrats used misleading rhetoric in pursuing the bill.
“When it comes to decisions about contraception, both parties believe a woman should be able to make her own decisions. Now, some on the other side would like to pretend otherwise,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said.
Glenn Kessler, the author of the Washington Post’s “Fact-Checker” column, also faulted the words that Senate Democrats used.
“Simply put, the Court ruling does not outlaw contraception. It doesn’t allow bosses to prevent women from seeking birth control, and it doesn’t take away a person’s religious freedom,” Kessler wrote Monday. “(T)he rhetoric needs to be firmly rooted in these objections. In many cases, Democratic rhetoric has been untethered from these basic facts.”
Despite the slap on the wrist, leading Senate Democrats did not back down from their push to shepherd the bill through the upper chamber despite its unlikely prospects of passing the Republican-controlled House.
After the vote, Udall gathered for a press conference with Murray, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, then met with a group of young voters wearing Planned Parenthood t-shirts.
Udall is locked in a tight race with Republican Rep. Cory Gardner and some Democratic strategists predict the contraception issue and Udall’s support of the bill would strengthen his base of support.
However, the issue might not play as well nationally. Udall and Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina were the only two Democrats in close contests who spoke on the Senate floor in support of Murray’s bill this week. Senators Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska, and John Walsh of Montana did not make public appearances in support of the bill.