Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 2, 2014

Some in GOP Applaud Obama Decision on Congressional Health Care Subsidies

House Republicans still don’t like Obamacare — or Obama, for that matter. But at least some of them conceded Friday the president did the right thing in making sure they and their staff wouldn’t lose their health care subsidies under the law.

“There’s no question it was the right thing to do,” said freshmen Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah. “Not just for me, but for my staff. Heavens, I have staff who don’t make much money. This would be a really big bite for them.”

Another Republican congressman described the White House’s intervention as a “relief,” as one aide in his office made around just $30,000 a year and had a child with many health issues. The member wanted to remain anonymous in sensitivity to his staffer’s privacy.

“I don’t know what she would have done,” he said.

CQ Roll Call broke the news on Thursday night that the Office of Personnel Management will issue a new regulation next week clarifying that the government will continue to help defray the cost of premiums for congressional employees in the new health insurance exchanges, which are set to go into effect later this year under the 2010 health care law.

There had been considerable anxiety that the provision of the law forcing members and staff into the exchanges did not provide for the government to continue subsidizing their insurance — potentially costing each of them thousands of dollars out of pocket a year at a time when paychecks in many House members’ offices have been frozen or cut in the past three and a half years because of budget cuts.

Members of both parties had been privately clamoring for the White House to resolve the situation — and passing a legislative fix would have been a dicey proposition given the partisan dispute over the law.

Supporters of the decision, such as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., note that the health insurance reimbursement is part of the benefits staffers expect, and many could make more money in the private sector already. And the part of the law that is silent on the issue seems to be an oversight — the original amendment putting lawmakers and aides into the exchanges by Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, explicitly provided for the employer reimbursements to continue for members of Congress and their staffs, but that mention was left out of the version that was enacted.

Even arch-conservatives acknowledged the provision would have been tough on staff if Obama had not acted.

“They would have been demanding some pay raises and those kind of things to take care of that,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., acknowledged. But he still blasted the decision as one carved out an exception and said the Affordable Care Act should instead be repealed for everyone.

When asked if he would have been able to raise his staffers’ pay to help offset the cost of insurance on the new exchanges, Huelskamp said, “I haven’t thought that far about what we could do. … It would have been an interesting question.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said the fix would upset constituents. “It’s upset a lot of people because we wanted to defund and undo Obamacare, 40 times we have voted for that. And every time there’s an exception to a group of people, it makes the population very angry.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., blasted the forthcoming Office of Personnel Management announcement as another in a series of questionable workarounds to keep an unworkable law from falling apart. Just last month, the Treasury Department announced on its website that it would not enforce the employer mandate for a year.

“What we’ve got now is governance by blog post and press release,” Price said. “By 9 o’clock last night, this leak came out. No paper. Nothing specific. No rule that we’ve seen yet, so we look forward to seeing that rule.”

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

  • Don

    “There’s no question it was the right thing to do,” said freshmen Rep.
    Chris Stewart, R-Utah. “Not just for me, but for my staff. Heavens, I
    have staff who don’t make much money. This would be a really big bite
    for them.”
    =============================
    No “bite” for me? I’m on SS and my yearly medical outlay is $6000…so can I have a bailout too please?

    • Brian

      This is why you should never vote Republican. They brought us the Great Depression. As time passed, people forgot or were too young to know. This is what GOP does, friends. One set of rules for the people but another set for the GOP.

      • railkat1

        REALLY?????? It’s both sides, not just one! The one set of rules another for everyone else applies to MOST of congress AND Obama! Do your research!

        • hepette

          my research shows repuke baggers are the most greedy inefficient people in the world

      • whnp

        Uh, any cursory glance at the history of the times would educate you otherwise. Anyway, a Republican Senator made a provision for the subsidies to continue and the Dems that rammed the law through forget to include it. Learn to read.

        Oh, and the reference to “arch-conservative” really outs the author as to what side of the fence she falls on. What, no reference to Pelosi as an “uber-liberal”?

      • Csmith

        You are COMPLETELY wrong. You don’t know your history at all! Democrats are the ones that passed this bill and it was a democrat that changed the rules not the republicans…… Republicans had NOTHING to do with any part of this bill AT ALL!

  • beckdella

    I say just kill ‘em all and let God sort it out!

  • stasis

    God forbid congress should suffer the same fate as the American public.

    • Brian

      Yes, especially the GOP portion of congress that the article has been written about!.

      • Csmith

        REALLY? What did the GOP have to do with this bill? What portion did they change or pass?

  • Mary

    Congressional staff wrote this bill (Obamacare) and it shouldn’t apply to them? Are you kidding. They definitely should abide by all laws written by them. That’s the problem, they write bills/laws that they consider they are above it all and as part of the elite do not have to abide by those same laws!

    • hepette

      the problem is repuke baggers who cant do anything but rename post offices

      • Csmith

        Do you even have a clue about anything? DEMOCRAT LIBERALS have put this country in dire straights! You might want to research to see who has been doing their job and who hasn’t….. Democrats haven’t done CRAP except blame republicans for the stuff democrats have put into place!!!!!

  • Brian

    That’s right, Ms Mary … we’re talking GOP congressional staff, Ms Mary… lets all be sure to look back at the title and the introduction. The GOP want to take it away from everyone but they want to keep it for themselves and their staff, lol. Republicans deserve to meet the same fate as French Aristocracy met during the French Revolution in 1790′s, a Revolution that was backed by former American Revolutionaries.

    • 1775concord

      You have one, and one only, Republican FRESHMAN congressman in this article who supports this…and FOUR Republicans who oppose it. So…mixed reaction??? Of course Pelosi supports this exemption…and let me remind you that not one single Republican voted for Abysmalcare. I believe your French Revolution reference should be directed at the Democrats, who pushed for everyone to have this but themselves.
      And whatever happened to Gressley’s amendment?

  • BrokersEye

    30 grand a year is alot less then our conservative Master Rush has quoted they make 70 to 150+ a year. Thats what was said over the air. Who’s Right ?

    • DonQuixote109

      Depends on WHO you are – MoC, Senior Staff, or low-end staff?

      But, Rush is prone to Hyperbole and outright fiction – makes better airwaves.

  • Jody

    Brian said:
    This is why you should never vote Republican. They brought us the Great Depression. As time passed, people forgot or were too young to know. This is what GOP does, friends. One set of rules for the people but another set for the GOP.
    Really…this was concocted by the Democrats…remember Nasty Nancy was in charge. The Republicans voted against it from the beginning. Go back and review the true history of this horrendous law. If the party of taxation would let up, ban Obamacare, and get this country back to work we could get through this Democrat Inspired Depression. The Dems are in control of the executive and senate branches and they nullify everything the Republican Congress tries to vote against.
    That’s what I can’t stand about the Democratic Party…they are just dishonest and have a faulty memory about who did what. I bet if GWB had put out this albatross the Democrats would have marched on the White House. Shame on all of you who revise history.

  • Get Real

    Start packing Chris…..you are part of the problem..

  • mainelysteve

    I guess those of us who work for a living just don’t WHINE loud enough. Bastards!

  • DonQuixote109

    Corporations are expected to provide Employer Sponsored Health Insurance (not necessarily 100% paid, but sponsored).

    The Gov’t has the same responsibility. They also have a moral, if not legal, responsibility to help with retirement plans.

    That’s why Government Employees also have retirement plans over and above Social Security – just like the rest of us “are supposed to have” in a functioning economy where the top doesn’t get too greedy and decide not to properly compensate their employees.

    Certainly some of the Platinum plans Congress carved out for themselves over the years was excess and largess beyond pale. Some of that is being addressed.
    The Intent of forcing the Legislative Branch onto the exchanges was to help ensure that we, the people, didn’t get steam rolled, again. If “They” have to use the same plans as many of us, it would be more fair.

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with the Government assisting its employees with their health insurance bills – and the exchanges provide multiple levels of coverage that the employees can decide on – against whatever % the government will cover.

    I don’t know that it would necessarily be a bad thing for ALL companies to have the same option – as opposed to using company A, B, or C – let them offer assistance against enrollment in the exchanges – BUT – that would run afoul of those who scream that this is a way for the government to take over healthcare.

    Therein lie the rub. So, Congress, who is forced to accept the Exchanges, is therefore granted an exception so their employer can continue to sponsor a “company” health care plan, while the rest of us have perhaps more limited options via our employers.

    It’s getting closer to the mark, people. We all know it isn’t perfect – how could it be when it was cobbled together with best intents and some greasing of palms (“special exceptions/provisions” for select districts).

    The solution isn’t to defund it and trash it. Help it get up and running, iron out the glitches. Cooperate and Achieve instead of bellyaching on the one hand while holding your Other hand out (in this case justifiably, IMHO) for the benefits that were part of your agreed upon total compensation package when you accepted the position.

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