It’s a common refrain from the American public: official Washington shouldn’t be able to exempt itself from laws it imposes on the people. A group of Republican lawmakers seized upon that populist charge Tuesday and said that Obamacare is no exception.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) are introducing legislation to undo a recent federal ruling that allows members of Congress and their staffs to retain their current health care subsidies once the Obamacare health insurance exchange begins October 1. Vitter said that the decision, issued by the Office of Personnel Management, is the epitome of why many view the nation’s capital as out-of-touch.
“These recent maneuverings inside the beltway are precisely why the American people rightly despise Congress,” Vitter said.
The Vitter/DeSantis bill would strip congresspersons and staff of their eligibility for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan and push them onto the exchange, without the aid of subsidies to purchase insurance on the exchange. It also would do the same for the president, vice-president and political appointees — which Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), who is helping Vitter introduce the Senate legislation, said should be common sense given that Obamacare is the current president’s policy achievement.
“Now you’d think that if the bill was named after you, you’d want to be under it,” Enzi said. “And so we’re hoping the President will take that approach … so that Congress and the administration have to live under whatever the American people have to live under.”
Enzi added that the senators will be looking to attach the measure as an amendment “at every opportunity”. DeSantis’ companion measure is expected to be an amendment to pending spending legislation needed to fund the federal government beyond the end of September, when current law expires.
Vitter addressed a concern that forcing lower-paid staffers onto the exchange could compel them to depart the government for other work, colloquially referred to as a “brain drain”. He said that such fears were overstated — and quipped that such instances may not be all that bad, anyway.
“First of all, the American people, their first reaction is, ‘These are the brains that gave us Obamacare?'”