Skip to comments.Why should Congress get special exemption under Obamacare?
Posted on 09/26/2013 6:22:41 PM PDT by markomalley
"I'm going to get a vote," says Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana. "I can't tell you how, or when, but I'm going to get a vote."
Vitter is determined to force his fellow senators to do something many don't want to do: Vote on whether the law, specifically Obamacare, applies to members of Congress and their staff.
Back in 2009, when Democrats were writing the massive new national health care scheme, Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley offered an amendment. Obamacare created exchanges through which millions of Americans would purchase "affordable" health coverage. Grassley's amendment simply required lawmakers, staff, and some in the executive branch to get their insurance through the exchanges, too.
To every Republican's amazement, Democrats accepted the amendment. It's never been fully clear why; the best theory is they intended to take the provision out in conference committee, but couldn't do so because they lost their filibuster-proof 60-vote majority. In any event, Obamacare --- the law of the land, as supporters like to say --- now requires Congress to buy its health care coverage through the exchanges.
That has caused Democratic panic as the formal arrival of Obamacare nears. Right now, all lawmakers and staff are entitled to enjoy generously-subsidized coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits plan. Why give up that subsidy and go on the exchanges like any average American?
But that's the law. It could be amended, but Democrats, who voted unanimously for Obamacare, couldn't very well expect much help from Republicans, who voted unanimously against it. So over the summer Democrats asked President Obama to simply create an Obamacare exception for Capitol Hill.
Not long after --- presto! --- the Office of Personnel Management unveiled a proposed rule to allow members of Congress, their staff, and some executive branch employees to continue receiving their generous federal subsidy even as they purchase coverage on the exchanges. No ordinary American would be allowed such an advantage.
Vitter watched the maneuvering that led to the OPM decision. He began work on what became the Vitter Amendment, which he likes to call "No Washington Exemption from Obamacare," that would reverse the OPM ruling. It specifies that members of Congress, staff, the president, vice president and all the administration's political appointees buy health coverage through Obamacare exchanges. If any of them earn incomes low enough to qualify for regular Obamacare subsidies, they will receive them --- just like any other American. But those with higher incomes will have to pay for their coverage on the exchanges --- just like everybody else.
Vitter hasn't exactly thrilled his colleagues. "There has been a lot of pushback behind the scenes, including from many Republicans," he says. Political types have complained that the requirement will cause "brain drain" on the Hill as staffers escape the burden of paying for their own coverage. "My response is, first of all, it's the law," says Vitter. "Look, this is a disruption. It's exactly what's happening across America, to people who are going to the exchanges against their will. To me, that's the point."
Ron Johnson, the Republican senator from Wisconsin, is one colleague delighted by Vitter's move. The idea of equal Obamacare treatment for Washington is enormously popular around the country, Johnson points out, which means even lawmakers who don't like it will be afraid to oppose it.
"I think most members don't want to vote to reject the OPM ruling," Johnson says. "But I think most members would vote to do that, if they were forced to, because it is so politically unpopular to have special treatment for members of Congress and their staff."
For that reason, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, aided by some Republicans, has done everything he can to make sure there will be no vote. When Vitter tried to attach his amendment to an energy bill, Reid at first resisted and finally pulled the legislation rather than allow a vote. Vitter also tried to add the amendment to the continuing resolution now being considered in the Senate. The response: No way, no how. Democrats have also circulated drafts of legislation to actually punish Vitter for his temerity.
But things may be changing. This week Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came out strongly for the amendment, telling radio host Bill Bennett that Congress "should not get any carve-outs from Obamacare." And House Republicans are considering adding the amendment to a possible new continuing resolution.
That may fail, but Vitter is likely to succeed in the long run. If there's anything that drives voters crazy, it is Congress exempting itself from the miseries it imposes on the American public. Someday, as Obamacare becomes a difficult reality in everyday life, Vitter will get his vote.
(Like Mr. (Special) Ed Schultz)
‘No animals sleep in beds .... with sheets.’
‘No animals drink alcohol ... to excess.’
There are always exceptions for the pigs.
That is so wrong.
End the exemption for Congress. Of all the people to exempt from healthcare, you exempt the ones who PASSED IT?
End the exemption. Then while you’re at it, come up with something to replace the entire thing.
Yes, after all, they are the ruling class. They think, what is good for thee, is not good for me.
Because they ALWAYS pass laws for their lessors
(suckers previous called ‘constituents’)
from which THEY, and their lucky families and staff
(and select servants from their brothels),
The French knew how to handle this.
...Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, aided by some Republicans, has done everything he can to make sure there will be no vote....
This makes me so damned mad. The GOP is pathetic.
Because they are just like us when convenient, and a special class of people whenever that is more convenient /sarc
They do such a great job.
Pray America to Wake Up
There is no constitutional authority for any of this. All these side battles are simply distractions. The house can deny funding for obamacare and it’s over. Nothing Reid and Obama can do about it. Same with the debt limit. The house and the house alone can deny funding, deny tax increases and deny borrowing. If they do not pass bills authorizing it, it cannot become law.
Out-freakin-rageous congress would exempt themselves from this law. Total in your face arrogance.
Not Good Enough Congress, why not do something meaningful and require ALL PUBLIC SERVANTS AND ALL PUBLIC EMPLOYEES IN EVERY STATE to enroll in OBAMACARE??
Self-proclaimed Royalty, ya think?
Ted Cruz video:
Congressional staffers are paid well. But they want to be subsidized or they’ll quit. Sure, they will.
Name them. We need to know who the RINO’s are and expose them.
There is a special place in hell way deep in hades pit reserved for Judge Robert.... I bet you that a$$ is exempt as well too!! I despise that SOB!!!
It’s the law, Obama ran on it and the Supreme court upheld it.
Their constituents are getting about fed up with the view from under the short bus.