Senate Democrats may have decided that directly threatening Louisiana Republican David Vitter over his attempt to force Congress to be treated exactly as all other Americans on Obamacare’s health-care exchanges wasn’t a smart move.
CNN quotes a Senate Democratic aide saying that they are unlikely to push an amendment denying federally subsidized health benefits to any member of Congress when there’s probable cause the member has hired prostitutes, as one piece of draft legislation had proposed. In 2006, Senator Vitter’s phone number was found in the records of a D.C. prostitution ring. He held a news conference with his wife present in which he admitted to a “serious sin,” but declined to elaborate.
But Democrats aren’t saying if they’ll drop another amendment they’ve prepared, which would deny health-care subsidies to any member who sponsors or votes for the Vitter amendment. Senate sources tell CNN “the Democratic plan was hatched in response to years of mounting frustration with the Louisiana senator.” Vitter apparently will continue to frustrate them. He has written the Senate Ethics Committee saying the Democratic amendment cutting off anyone’s health-care subsidies would be tantamount to attempted bribery.
Members of Congress and their personal staffs are covered by Obamacare’s health-care exchanges, but unlike all other Americans required to use the exchanges, they are allowed to keep extensive employer subsidies, with theirs amounting to between $5,000 and $11,000 per year. Senator Vitter says that with many Americans being dropped from employer health-care plans and forced into the exchanges, it’s unfair for those in Congress to keep the subsidies.
The Obama administration — under pressure from Congress — last month issued an administrative rule declaring that while members and their staffs will have to be on the exchanges, they will continue to get taxpayer-funded subsidies to pay for most of the cost of that coverage.
Majority Leader Harry Reid is furious at Vitter and refusing to give him a floor vote on his bill. Vitter promises to hold up Senate legislation until he gets a vote that puts members on record on the issue.
Reid took to the Senate floor yesterday to declare that Vitter “has happily allowed the federal government to pay for a portion of his health insurance for many, many years, as a member of the House of Representatives and as a member of the Senate — now he wants to force these 16,000 congressional workers to cover the full cost of their health insurance.”
Watching this standoff will continue to be highly illuminating.