Sen. Vitter: Congress’ Obamacare Exemption Is ‘Clearly, Unequivocally Illegal’

James Beattie | September 27, 2013 | 10:46am EDT
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( -- Speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, Senator David Vitter (R-La.) once again called for an end to “special privileges” in Washington, stating that the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) draft rule allowing members of Congress and their staffs to receive taxpayer-funded subsidies when they enroll in Obamacare health care exchanges, regardless of whether they breach the 400 percent poverty threshold, is “clearly, unequivocally illegal.”

“The Obama administration issued this draft rule, and in my opinion it is clearly, unequivocally illegal because it’s in conflict with the language of the statute,” Vitter told his Senate colleagues.

“The rule does two things,” he continued. “First of all, even though the statute says clearly that every member of Congress and all official congressional staff go to the exchange, the draft rule says, ‘Well, we don’t know what official staff is, so we’re gonna leave that up to every individual member of Congress to decide who on his or her staff is official staff for purposes of this provision. We’re never gonna second guess them.’

“So in theory, a member of Congress can say, ‘Well, my committee staff isn’t official staff, my leadership staff isn’t official staff.’ In fact, in theory, under this proposed rule, a member of Congress can say nobody on my staff is, quote, official staff for purposes of this provision, and OPM has made clear, ‘We’re not gonna second guess that.’ That’s ridiculous on its face”

“And second Mr. [Senate] President, the rule says for members and any staff who do go to the exchange, they get to take a big fat taxpayer-funded subsidy with them, subsidy that’s completely unavailable to any other American at that income level going to the exchange. That’s not in the statute at all; that’s contrary to the statute, the letter, the law, the spirit, that’s contrary to it completely.”

Vitter re-filed his “No Washington Exemption from Obamacare” amendment to the House-passed continuing resolution after his attempt to attach it to the now halted Energy-Efficiency Bill was blocked by Senate Democrats last week.

The Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, includes a provision that requires members of Congress and their staffs to be treated just like any other Americans when they purchase health insurance on the exchanges. But after what Vitter called “months of scheming and lobbying,” OPM issued a draft rule exempting them from the law’s income limits.

“The principle is clear, and to me it’s the first principle of democracy. In our case, of the United States of America, what’s good for America should be good for Washington, and what is applied to America should absolutely be applied in the same way to Washington across the board, certainly including Obamacare,” Vitter said.

“We’re on a timetable, a collision course where unless we act, a horrible policy, an illegal Obama administration rule will go into effect,” the Louisiana Republican warned. “And so it is important that we vote, and we act, and we do that now….before October 1st.”

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