- Colorado school drops sexual harassment label on boy who kissed girl’s hand
- Australia court strikes down 5-day-old, gay-marriage law
- Fake interpreter at Mandela service: ‘Sorry,’ I have schizophrenia
- George Zimmerman will not be charged in domestic dispute
- Russian officials press bilateral U.S. trade deal
- Creator of ‘Selfies at Funerals’ blog retires after Obama flub: ‘Our work here is done’
- New Obama adviser Podesta is against Keystone but will steer clear of pipeline deliberations
- 40 Australian adults, children found in ‘one of the worst accounts of incest ever made public’
- Venezuela’s Maduro calls on student ‘price vigilantes’ to hit the streets, report businesses
- Atheists smug as Hindus join Satanists to demand display at Oklahoma Statehouse
GOP wants decision overturned on taxpayer subsidies for Obamacare for Congress, staff
Question of the Day
A growing chorus of Republican lawmakers is calling on the Obama administration to reverse its decision to let members of Congress and their staffs use taxpayer money to buy insurance under the new health care law, setting up a politically touchy debate as more of the law takes effect.
The lawmakers have unveiled draft bills in both the House and Senate they say would force members of Congress to experience Obamacare the same way many average Americans will — having to pay out-of-pocket for insurance in state-based exchanges.
“As long as Obamacare remains law, members of Congress should not receive exchange subsidies that are not provided to other Americans,” said Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia Republican, who plans to introduce the No Obamacare Subsidies for Congress Act of 2013 once lawmakers return from their summer vacation.
The way the Affordable Care Act is written, members of Congress and staffers in their personal offices have to leave the government-sponsored Federal Employment Health Benefits Program and go into the exchanges to buy insurance.
But the Obama administration ruled they can still get taxpayer money to cover up to 75 percent of their premiums — though there are still plenty of unanswered questions about how the situation will work.
Critics said the special arrangement gives Congress a leg up on average Americans, who won’t get the same kind of federal support, and they are searching for ways to spread the pain around.
“It stands to reason that if your administration and the Democratic majorities then in Congress drafted, passed, and enacted a law so ill-conceived and poorly constructed that members of Congress and congressional staff didn’t understand the law’s impact on themselves, then of course you couldn’t appreciate its impact on 300 million Americans,” Rep. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, said in a recent letter to Mr. Obama.
One solution some in the GOP are floating is to force President Obama and his political appointees to ditch their government-sponsored plans and join the state exchanges.
Another option would be to overturn the Office of Personnel Management’s decision to let congressional employees keep their employer-paid contributions.
One quirk of the health care law is that it only forces members of Congress and their personal office aides into the exchanges, but their not committee aides.
Republican Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana and Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming have proposed a bill that would prohibit members of Congress from designating who is an “official” staff member, which they said would mean all staffers would be pushed into the exchanges.
Their bill also would expand the roster of Washington officials who must enter the exchanges and ban lawmakers from receiving employer-contribution government subsidies or tax credits to defray their health costs.
Mrs. Capito’s bill would strip all forms of government subsidies from lawmakers.
Republicans say that they would prefer to scrap the entire bill — but in the meantime, that these solutions are only fair.
“If the exchanges actually go into effect, Congress should pass a law to put White House and congressional leadership in the exchanges,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican who first proposed making members of Congress take part.
But a spokesman for Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee, Josh Drobnyk, pointed to an October 2012 memo from Mr. Grassley’s office that suggests the amendment’s author never intended to tinker with the federal contribution.
The memo, which sought to clarify media reports on his amendment, noted: “Senator Grassley said his provision, even in the final form it took in the law that was enacted makes no changes to the employer contribution to federal employee health care coverage and no changes to federal retiree health care.”
It is unclear whether Congress will be able to address the problem when it resumes business this month after the August recess. Only 28 days remain until the health exchanges open for business, although open enrollment will run through March.
“In normal times, Congress would have passed a technical amendments bill and they would have straightened out these things,” said Timothy Jost, a health care reform specialist at Washington and Lee University School of Law. “But we’re not living in normal times.”
© Copyright 2013 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius calls for review of Obamacare rollout woes
- More than a quarter million sign up for Obamacare in November
- Harry Reid, David Vitter spar over Obamacare 'exemptions'
- Oregonians likely to rely on paper Obamacare enrollment into January
- Oregon fails to sign up single person on health care website as states struggle
Latest Blog Entries
- Calif.: Give 'gift of health' by pledging cash for the uninsured
- Tensions hit boiling point over Obamacare enrollment figures, error rates
- Young, uninsured adults vital to Obamacare are not keen on enrolling: New Harvard poll
- Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox will promote Obamacare at Mall of America
- HealthCare.gov employs a new look once again
By Matt Kibbe
The short-term deal will assure long-term overspending
- Rand Paul: Budget deal 'shameful,' 'huge mistake'
- All-out war breaks out in GOP over budget pact
- Teen thugs in D.C. run wild -- even while wearing GPS ankle bracelets
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend's shopping jumps to his death
- Biden guarantees victory on immigration reform
- Inside the Ring: China targets Global Hawk drone
- Obama's antics at Nelson Mandela tribute: Jovial conversation, handshake with Raul Castro
- KIBBE: Another Republican budget surrender
- American bourbon now better than Scottish whisky: U.K.-born expert
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Al Maurer provides a common sense, conservatarian, Constitutional conservative perspective from the battleground state of Colorado
Interviews and show reviews from the Los Angeles punk scene past and present. Los Angeles has always been rich in punk rock talent since punk rock was born.
Buzz on Bees is a column promoting the love and life of God’s greatest pollinators on earth: The Honeybee
Brazen, leading-edge, “call it like it is” columns and reporting from Ohio native, radio host and writer, Sara Marie Brenner.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow