Sen. Johnson May Sue Over Obamacare Exemption for Congressional Staffs

by Andrew Johnson

Senator Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) has taken the first steps in what could result in a legal challenge to a recent rule proposed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that would allow the federal government to make contributions toward the insurance premiums of congressmen and congressional staffers. Last week, Johnson filed a formal comment to the OPM asking the agency to reconsider.

“My intent is to make sure President Obama is not allowed to exceed his legal authority in implementing this law, and that members of Congress and their staffs are not shielded from the harmful effects of this law that every other American will experience,” Johnson said in a statement. He told Roll Call that he “really do[es] believe that it was the pretty clear intent” of those who voted for Obamacare not to provide exemption for Capitol Hill staffers.

The OPM made the decision to allow contributions from the federal government in an effort to remedy what was a “drafting error” in the Affordable Care Act. The alleged error would force staffers to pay for their insurance without employer contributions. Lawmakers on both sides have raised the issue, worrying that it could lead to a potential “brain drain” of congressional staffs.

But Johnson sees it differently. By filing the comment, Johnson said he is going “through the normal channels” to sue the OPM down the road if the agency doesn’t opt to reverse its decision from last month.

Senator David Vitter (R., La.) has written an amendment that would reverse the OPM decision, but it has been strongly contested by Democratic leadership in the chamber. John Fund wrote about Vitter’s amendment earlier this week.