Sunday, March 28, 2010

Of Course They Won't Abide By Their Own Rules

Health Bill Will Exempt Top Hill Staff

March 23, 2010 07:48 PM EDT
The health care reform bill signed into law by President Barack Obama Tuesday requires members of Congress and their office staffs to buy insurance through the state-run exchanges it creates – but it may exempt staffers who work for congressional committees or for party leaders in the House and Senate. Staffers and members on both sides of the aisle call it an “inequity” and an “outrage” – a loophole that exempts the staffers most involved in writing and passing the bill from one of its key requirements. The bill requires “congressional staff” to buy insurance from the exchanges – with a stipend from the Office of Personnel Management But page 158 of the bill defines “congressional staff” narrowly, as “employees employed by the official office of a member of Congress, whether in the district office or in Washington.” The Congressional Research Service believes a court could rule that the legislation "would exclude professional committee staff, joint committee staff, some shared staff, as well as potentially those staff employed by leadership offices.” If that’s so, staffers who work for Nancy Pelosi in her capacity as representative from California would go into the exchange program, while staffers who work for her in her capacity as speaker would stay on the government’s plan. Other Capitol employees, like those who work for the clerk of the House or the House historian, would be similarly exempted. Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who both say they tried to correct the issue last year, are firing at Senate leaders, saying that Democrats purposely exempted upper-level staffers out of the bill. Last September, the Senate Finance Committee adopted a Grassley amendment into its version of the bill, mandating that members of Congress and their staff get their health insurance through the exchanges. It was agreed to by unanimous consent. Coburn had earlier filed a similar amendment in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which passed with some Democratic support. However, when the combined Senate bill came to the floor, the definition of staff had been narrowed. Both senators filed a second amendment in December restating their original intent, but they say Democrats blocked it. “The American people will be appalled to learn the health care bill exempts leadership and committee staff. This special deal for unelected staff underscores everything the public detests about the arrogance of power in Washington,” Coburn said. “I tried to fix this inequity along with senators Grassley, Burr and Vitter, but Majority Leader [Harry] Reid obstructed our effort.” Reid spokesman Jim Manley acknowledged that the bill exempts committee staff but argued that leadership staff is not excluded. As for why committee staff is excluded, Manley said that when leaders merged the health care bills from the Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, they took Coburn’s language from the HELP Committee rather than Grassley’s Finance Committee proposal because they feared Grassley’s language was so broad that it would have required “people like legislative counsel, Architect of the Capitol, etc.” to participate in the exchanges, too.
Tonight, as the Senate moved toward the process of debating the reconciliation bill, Grassley offered yet another amendment to force all congressional staffers, as well as the president, vice president, cabinet members and top White House staff to buy coverage through the exchanges. “The new health care law creates two double standards. The congressional staff who wrote the new law exempted themselves from the new health care system, while other staff will be in it,” Grassley said today in a statement. “And, President Obama himself will not live under Obama health care. The message to grassroots America is that it’s good enough for you, but not for us.” While the amendment is unlikely to gain traction as Democrats are trying to prevent any major changes to the legislation, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) is in the process of drafting similar legislation that he expects to introduce as a standalone bill in the coming week or so. Democrats could have a hard time voting against this issue; the whole point of including members of Congress and their staffs in the first place was to allay concerns about hypocrisy. A band of additional lawmakers, including Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) say they want the health care reform extended to all staffers. “It is ironic that the very staffers and members who were saying ‘if you like what you have you can keep it,’ are discovering that they may be the first casualties of that betrayal. I bet that in the coming weeks, the hypocrisy of this loophole will pale in comparison to the other flaws we’ll discover,” Blackburn said. Some Republican staffers are furious about what they see as special treatment for committee and leadership aides. “It is absolutely outrageous that the very people who were directly responsible for writing this legislation put in an exemption for themselves. It’s doesn’t get much more self-serving than that, and it’s downright offensive,” said one Republican staffer. The potential for different treatment also exasperates the envy some office staffers feel toward their committee counterparts. “There is a view held by many people that committee work is more stable. It pays a little better and you’re not as subject to the cyclical nature of elections,” one House Republican staffer said. “So, there is a perception that overall, committee staff have better jobs. This is an inequity.” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said he’s heard nervous cloakroom and speaker’s lobby staffers discussing their confusion over which staffers would be covered and which would not. “Staff is already buzzing about it. It creates disillusionment because of the uncertainty. Obviously staffers are anxious about it,” Chaffetz said. “The whole bill is full of loopholes, it’s such a mess.”

1 comment:

MickeyWhite said...

But 400 BILLION on unconstitutional health care is ok?

Prescription Drug Benefit.
The final version (conference report) of H.R. 1 would create a prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients. Beginning in 2006, prescription coverage would be available to seniors through private insurers for a monthly premium estimated at $35. There would be a $250 annual deductible, then 75 percent of drug costs up to $2,250 would be reimbursed. Drug costs greater than $2,250 would not be covered until out-ofpocket expenses exceeded $3,600, after which 95 percent of drug costs would be reimbursed. Low-income recipients would receive more subsidies than other seniors by paying lower premiums, having smaller deductibles, and making lower co-payments for each prescription. The total cost of the new prescription drug benefit would be limited to the $400 billion that Congress had budgeted earlier this year for the first 10 years of this new entitlement program. The House adopted the conference report on H.R. 1 on November 22, 2003 by a vote of 220 to 215 (Roll Call 669).
Marsha Blackburn Voted FOR this bill.
Marsha Blackburn is a Hypocrite.
Marsha Blackburn is my Congressman.
See her unconstitutional votes at :