Last week, Senator David Vitter (R–LA) proposed an amendment that would end exemptions for White House political appointees and stop illegal taxpayer subsidies for Congress and staff enrolled in Obamacare’s new health insurance exchanges. In other words, political appointees, Members of Congress, and their staffs would receive the same coverage and be eligible for subsidies available to every other American enrolled in the exchanges. No special deals.
On September 17, Senator Dick Durbin (D–IL) charged that Vitter’s proposed amendment was “unfair” because it would eliminate the employer payment for Members of Congress and 16,000 congressional staffers.
But this is a curious complaint. In 2010, Senator Durbin and all other Senate Democrats voted—lockstep—for final passage of Obamacare, which included Section 1312, which ended Members’ access to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and instead placed them into the Obamacare health insurance exchanges. Without access to employer coverage, there is no employer subsidy—not for Congress and not for any other worker dumped out of job-based coverage into the exchanges. That’s the law.
Durbin also tries to use Vitter’s vote for an amendment (Amendment No. 3564) offered by Senator Chuck Grassley (R–IA) during debate over Obamacare to undermine his current efforts. Yes, Vitter voted for the amendment. The amendment would have put the President, his appointees, Congress, and staff into the exchanges but would have preserved the government contributions for Congress and staff in the new exchanges.
Here’s the catch: Senator Durbin voted against the Grassley amendment, as did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV), Senator Barbara Boxer (D–CA), and 53 other Senate Democrats. (See The Congressional Record, March 24, 2010, p. S1996.) In other words, these Senators voted to protect the President and his appointees from their own law but also voted to remove the employer contribution to Congress and their staff. Yet these Senators now oppose it.
Senate liberals say they like Obamacare. If that’s the case, it is only reasonable for them to want to make sure they get what they like on the same exact terms and conditions as every other American enrolled in the exchanges, as put forth by Senator Vitter.