Some top Capitol Hill staffers who work for congressional committees or for party leaders in the House and Senate may be exempt from the newly enacted healthcare bill, the same controversial legislation they helped engineer and foist upon ordinary citizens, according to a Politico report.
Language in the bill specifically and narrowly defines “congressional staff” – folks who under the new law must buy health insurance from state-run exchanges -- as “employees employed by the official office of a member of congress, whether in the district office or in Washington.”
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According to the Politico report, the Congressional Research Service has opined that the courts could find that the legislation "would exclude professional committee staff, joint committee staff, some shared staff, as well as potentially those staff employed by leadership offices.” The bottom line: employees of Nancy Pelosi, the congresswoman from California, would be required to join the exchange program, while employees of Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, could legally keep the perk of the tried-and-true government plan.
It’s a large loophole that has not gone unnoticed. Opponents, however, have been unsuccessful in efforts to shut the gap through amendments to the bill.
“The American people will be appalled to learn the healthcare bill exempts leadership and committee staff. This special deal for unelected staff underscores everything the public detests about the arrogance of power in Washington, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said. “I tried to fix this inequity along with senators Grassley, Burr and Vitter, but Majority Leader [Harry] Reid obstructed our effort.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Harry Reid’s spokesman Jim Manley acknowledged that the bill exempts committee staff, but argued that leadership staff is not excluded.
In the ongoing reconciliation process, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa put forward an amendment to force all congressional staffers, as well as the president, vice president, cabinet members and top White House staff to purchase 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. “And, President Obama himself will not live under Obama healthcare. The message to grassroots America is that it’s good enough for you, but not for us.”
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