The left-wing spin machine is repeating the deceptively simple point there is no “exemption” for Congress in the Obamacare bill. That’s true, there is no “exemption” in the bill — in the sense that Congressional members and their staffers are still required to participate in the exchanges to get health insurance.
But taxpayers are not obsessing about Clintonesque legalese, watching angels dance on the head of a pin as they ponder the meaning of the word ‘is’ — they are concerned about a “representative” body that doesn’t fully share in the negative consequences of its own legislation.
Congressman David Vitter made it clear that his colleagues are getting special breaks from Obamacare when he posted the graphic featured above with the exact language of the law (in case you’re confused, the OPM is part of the Obama administration that dispensed the “special” ruling).
So, Fact Check can deny a ‘special subsidy’ for Congress (presumably because all other federal workers get 75% subsidized premiums, yeah, isn’t that “special”?) and it can bemoan malicious intent and so forth, but the news reports don’t lie.
For example, here is a report from Reuters on August 7th:
When Congress passed the health reform law known as Obamacare in 2010, an amendment required that lawmakers and their staff members purchase health insurance through the online exchanges that the law created. They would lose generous coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
The amendment’s author, Republican Senator Charles Grassley, argued that if Obamacare plans were good enough for the American public, they were good enough for Congress. Democrats, eager to pass the reforms, went along with it.
But it soon became apparent the provision contained no language that allowed federal contributions toward their health plans that cover about 75 percent of the premium costs. [...]
But Wednesday’s proposed rule from the OPM, the federal government’s human resources agency, means that Congress will escape the most onerous impact of law as it was written.
What do taxpayers have themselves in a dither about? In “reality,” when wealthy Congressmen and their staffers do not have to pay 75% of the skyrocketing premiums on the exchanges, it is not exactly playing by the rules.
That’s why Republicans introduced legislation to strip the perk from Congress members shielding them from the full import of their health legislation. From The Hill:
…The idea was, if Congress is going to write a law that forces tens of thousands of Americans on Obamacare through the individual mandate, Congress should be prepared to share in that experience.
But now the administration is defeating the purpose of that idea by allowing special treatment for members of Congress and their staff. Instead of going on Obamacare and abiding by the same laws and requirements as everyone else in it, members of Congress can now receive tax-exempt contributions from their employer (the federal government) to their health care premiums on the Obamacare exchange. This will create one set of rules for the American people and a different set of rules for Congress.
Congressmen and their staffers are receiving subsidies from their “employer” — the American people — who are nonetheless not subject to the same special treatment. That is the double standard that people are complaining about, all debate-team discussions about the meaning of “exempt” aside.
Ed. Note: This post was edited for content and updated after publication.