- Unbeliebable: White House turns Bieber petition response into immigration screed
- Obama signs law denying Iran ambassador’s visa, but says law is ‘advisory’
- Mich. judge to laughing convicted killer: ‘I hope you die in prison’
- Man charged in Kansas City-area highway shootings
- Keystone XL pipeline still on hold after State Dept. decision
- Fla. man charged with killing 16-month-old son to play Xbox undisturbed
- Drones from the deep: Pentagon develops ocean-floor attack robots
- Michigan mayor slaps back atheists’ try to erect ‘reason station’ at city hall
- PHILLIPS: Where is the conservative establishment?
- 7.5-magnitude earthquake shakes southern Mexico
Sen. David Vitter uses pharmacy bill to challenge Obamacare
Sen. David Vitter wants to know if fellow lawmakers are skirting the letter of the law by exempting staff members from state-based Obamacare markets, and he is willing to hold up a pharmaceuticals bill that breezed through a key test vote late Tuesday to get his colleagues to fess up.
The Louisiana Republican cast the lone “no” vote as the chamber decided, by a 97-1 vote, to end debate on a bill that would regulate and monitor compounding pharmacies, which customize medicine for certain patients’ needs.
For months, Mr. Vitter has charged that the Obama administration took an end run around a part of the Affordable Care Act that requires Capitol Hill lawmakers and their personal staff to forfeit their government-sponsored health care plans and enroll in state-based insurance exchanges. The goal was to make lawmakers experience what many Americans face in the individual marketplace.
Mr. Vitter wants to attach his piece of legislation, the Show Your Exemption Act, as an amendment to a widely supported pharmacy bill to make sure lawmakers disclose which staffers will take part in Obamacare, his spokesman said Tuesday.
Sens. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, and Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican, crafted the underlying bill after a meningitis outbreak last year that killed more than 60 people. The outbreak was traced to unsanitary conditions at a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts that, lawmakers said, flouted the law by acting like a large-scale drug manufacturer.
A similar bill passed in the House with broad support from both parties, a rare feat in the fractured chamber.
“I dare say, but for a senator, one person, we probably would have passed it by unanimous consent here,” Mr. Harkin said Tuesday on the Senate floor, without singling out Mr. Vitter by name.
Mr. Vitter appears to be on his own. A spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said Tuesday he was not sure whether the House had a companion bill to Mr. Vitter’s disclosure measure.
Mr. Vitter has insisted on a legislative fix to shine a light on lawmakers who let their staff keep out of the reach of Obamacare.
The Office of Personnel Administration said this year that it’s up to each member to decide which staff members are “official.” In recent floor speeches, Mr. Vitter said it is “outrageous” that some lawmakers are taking advantage of that leeway by issuing blanket exemptions for their staff.
Some are taking the letter of the law more strictly than others, with a hodgepodge of approaches to Obamacare exemptions among Republicans and Democrats alike in both chambers.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican who authored the amendment during the health care debate, said the original intent of his provision was distorted during the final drafting of the Obamacare statute, leading to various exemptions for leadership staff and others.
He said he is following a strict interpretation of the law by placing his personal staff in the exchanges and keeping his committee staff in the federal benefits health care plan.
Those kicked off their federal plans are supposed to enroll in the District of Columbia’s small-business exchange and choose among 112 options in the gold-tier level of health care plans, according to guidance from the Obama administration.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Tom Howell Jr. covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
- Sebelius not running for Senate, HHS confirms: Report
- Red fox makes a home for himself at the White House: Report
- 7.5-magnitude earthquake shakes southern Mexico
- Sen. Joe Manchin keeps his options open for 2016
- Many Americans would quickly face financial hardship after losing job, poll shows
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
Women losing coverage under Obamacare, too
- Scalia to students on high taxes: At a certain point, 'perhaps you should revolt'
- Former Ranger breaks silence on Pat Tillman death: I may have killed him
- Feds approve powdered alcohol; 'Palcohol' available later this year
- Special Forces' suicide rates hit record levels casualties of 'hard combat'
- Justice at last: 'Evil woman' outed for grabbing girl's game ball
- Army goes to war with National Guard, seizes Apache attack helicopters
- Inside China: Marine's comment on islands draws sharp Chinese response
- EDITORIAL: More Lerner smoking-gun emails at IRS
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- EDITORIAL: Mark Warner running scared?
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.