Three Pinocchios for Harry Reid’s Explanation of his Staffers and Obamacare

. . .This story certainly illustrates the complexity of the health-care law, when even the people who crafted it don’t agree on what it means.

Reid said that “the law said leadership and committee staff should stay where they were.” He, of course, was at least partially responsible for the law. And yet ever since it was passed, the specific language has puzzled and confused experts and lawmakers about the precise meaning of “official office.”

The OPM guidance appears to have left the final determinations to lawmakers. So did the guidance from the administrative offices. Predictably, lawmakers have taken different routes, though among the top four leaders, Reid is the only one who chose not to put all his staff on the exchange.

He says his hands are tied because the legal counsel told his office that putting all his staff on the exchanges could expose the Senate to possible legal action, presumably from a staff member upset that he or she has been moved to the exchanges. (It certainly would be an interesting legal challenge for a Democratic staffer to make.)

But that explanation raises additional questions. Why was the additional legal guidance sought in the first place? Does the legal counsel’s opinion mean many of Reid’s colleagues are taking steps that could result in lawsuits? And why, then, did the secretary of the Senate not issue clearer guidance to lawmakers about the potential legal ramifications?

At the same time, Reid can rightly argue that, based on the administrative guidance, if he had simply left the designation to the secretary of the Senate, the result would have been the same: leadership staff would not have moved to the exchanges. The path of least resistance may have turned out to be the route with the biggest political risk. But there were two paths.

The bottom line is this: Reid is essentially claiming he had no choice. He may have had a basis for this decision. But, judging from the way that many of his colleagues have handled this, he did have a choice, potential lawsuit or not.

As for Pinocchios, we find ourselves wavering between two and three, though we do not give 1/2 Pinocchios. This was a difficult judgment to make. But it tips ever so slightly toward Three.