SAN DIEGO -- U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein expressed disappointment
Saturday in the compromise the Obama administration announced this week on its birth control coverage mandate, but said the decision "can be lived with."
"I regret the fact that the president felt he had to do it, but he had to do it," she told reporters after speaking at the California Democratic Party convention in San Diego.
The Obama administration announced Friday that it would not force certain religious institutions such as Catholic hospitals to comply with a health regulation requiring employers to provide employees with access to free contraceptives. While the faith-based employers will be able to opt out of the rule, insurance companies will be required to provide such coverage at no cost to the employer.
The Feinstein's comment put her in contrast with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who defended the administration's move yesterday. Pelosi told reporters that the move demonstrated Obama's unifying leadership abilities and an ongoing commitment to women's health.
The remark came after the 78-year-old Democrat, who is up for re-election this year, told Democrats attending the convention's Saturday luncheon that re-electing Obama must be their "first order of business" in 2012.
"We must re-elect a man who restored America's image abroad, who saved the American auto industry and who has worked tirelessly to bring this county back from an economic catastrophe he actually inherited," she said. "We have to come together like we have never come together before to re-elect Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States."
Feinstein, who is not expected to face a top-tier challenger this year, urged attendees to get involved in issues she has been championing in Washington, D.C., and California, including legislation to ban the military from detaining American citizens on U.S. soil indefinitely and to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.
She called 1996 federal law restricting rights for same-sex couples, which the Obama administration says it will no longer defend, "diabolical."
"It was wrong when it was introduced, it is wrong today and we must change it," she said.
Feinstein also made a pitch for a proposed health insurance rate regulation initiative backed by Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and Consumer Watchdog. She urged attendees to sign the petition to help qualfify the initiative, which would give the insurance commissioner the power to block proposed increases in the cost of coverage.
"Please become part in this movement," she said, directing attendees to signature-gatherers waiting outside. "It is important and you could actually be directly affected by it."