By Meghashyam Mali
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Sunday blasted the Obama administration's moves to mandate religious affiliated groups to provide contraception coverage as "paternalistic" and "arrogant."
"What we're getting from the White House on this conscience issue, it's not an issue about contraception, it's an issue that reveals a political philosophy the president is showing that basically treats our constitutional rights as if they were revocable privileges from our government, not inalienable rights from our creator." said Ryan on NBC's Meet the Press.
"We're seeing this new government activism, paternalistic, arrogant, political philosophy that puts new government-granted rights in the way of our constitutional rights."
"That's really not about contraception," said Ryan of the mandate. "It's about violating our first amendment rights to religious freedom and conscience."
Ryan was asked by host David Gregory to respond to GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum's comments Saturday, saying that President Obama's political agenda was based on "some phony theology. Not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology."
"I wouldn't characterize it that way," said Ryan. "I would simply say that he has a political philosophy that believes he can mandate certain benefits and activities of the American people that conflicts with their constitutional rights. He believes that these new government-granted rights trump our constitutional rights such as our first amendment right to conscience, to freedom of religion."
"I would go after him on his political philosophy which violates our founding principles."
GOP candidates and lawmakers have blasted the ruling from the administration which initially required religious organizations to provide birth control in health plans for employees.
The administration later amended the ruling after criticism from conservative groups and the Catholic Church and said religious organizations would not need to pay for contraception, allowing employees to obtain birth control from the employer's insurer.
Appearing with Ryan on Meet the Press, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said Republicans were overstepping with the issue and using it to motivate their base ahead of the 2012 election.
"What you're seeing here is that as the economy is improving, and more and more people are going back to work, the Republicans are going back to the red meat social issues that helps rile up their base," he said.
Van Hollen said the president had "put on the table a very principled compromise on this issue, making sure that women would have the healthcare they need, including contraception, and also making sure that people could pursue their own religious liberty."
Van Hollen was also asked to respond to Santorum's "phony theology" remark.
"Well, if what he's saying, and again I didn't hear all of the tape, but if what he's saying is, he's actually questioning the president's faith, that is a new low in American politics and clearly something that has no place in our political dialogue," he said.
"If that's what he meant, he should retract and apologize."
Sunday, on ABC's This Week, Santorum clarified his remarks and said he "wasn't suggesting the president was not a Christian."
"I accept the fact that the president's a Christian," the former Pennsylvania senator said.