Tags: Healthcare Reform | Congress | Staff | Taxpayers | Vitter

Congress Treats Staff Better Than Taxpayers

Friday, 12 December 2014 11:24 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Right now Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is not very popular in Harry Reid’s Democrat Senate. The irony is he may not be much more popular with the leadership in Mitch McConnell’s Republican Senate next year.
Vitter is one of those annoying people who believe members of the House and Senate should be subject to the laws they pass, just like the taxpayers who provide their salary. And he’s not shy about pointing out the hypocrisy of those members who believe they merit special privileges.
During the frenzy to pass Obamacare before Scott Brown’s plane landed, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, managed to insert an amendment requiring members and their staff to enjoy the same health exchanges that taxpayers were sentenced to use.
Once the bill passed and members learned what was in it, they wanted no part of this leftist moral crusade. Since the plain language now required their participation, Harry Reid simply ordered a new bottle of Dr. Obama’s Executive Order Solvent to remove the offending language.
Now members of Congress have a choice, both of which involve deceiving the taxpayer.
The first is to ostensibly follow the law and designate employees as “official.” This means they are thrown onto the tender mercies of the D.C. Obamacare exchange, just like taxpayers. What taxpayers don’t know is the executive order allows staff to have their insurance subsidized by those same taxpayers to the tune of up to $10,000 each year.
Even worse, this subsidy is not based on income, but rather on the plan. So a Senate chief of staff, making north of $140,000 a year, gets a subsidy denied to a taxpayer earning thousands less.
The other choice is to designate staff members as “non-official.” This grandfathers them in the Federal Employee Health Benefits program where they continue to receive premium subsidies and access to policies with coverage denied to the rest of us.
Besides the basic unfairness, the “non-official” designation presents public relations problems. 
Taxpayers are certainly within their rights to wonder why someone not valuable enough to be “official” is drawing a salary. Are these people like the “moderate militias” fighting against Basher Assad in Syria? A loose confederation of poorly trained and poorly equipped volunteers you hope won’t turn on you some time in the future?
(Come to think of it, except for the volunteer part, that’s a pretty good description of the IRS telephone help desk.)
Vitter’s plans to end this backroom deal, “First, as a matter of principle, Washington should be treated like the rest of America, not like an elite ruling class. Second, as a very practical matter, making the chefs eat their own cooking does wonders for the quality of what comes out of the kitchen.”
He introduced a bill that would overturn the executive order loophole and require members and their staff; the president and vice president and their staffs; and all political appointees to buy their insurance on Obamacare exchanges without any subsidy.
To paraphrase H. L. Mencken, they deserve to get what they want, good and hard.
Naturally, Reid refused to give Vitter’s bill a vote. Instead it’s buried somewhere on Reid’s desk in the layer just above the approval form for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.
There is reason for cautious optimism when Republicans assume control next year. Just this week Vitter convinced the Senate Republican Conference to pass a rule requiring Republicans to designate all their employees as “official.”
That’s a start; particularly if it results in a vote before the entire Senate, but the rule does not address the outrageous hidden subsidy staffers receive at taxpayer expense. Vitter’s legislation next year should correct both problems.
Which brings us to what you can do.
During the Christmas recess many Republicans will be holding town hall meetings to bamboozle their constituents. You can cut down on the spin level by asking two simple questions of your congressman and/or senator.
First, have you designated your entire office, committee, and leadership staff as “official” so they use the same Obamacare exchanges we do?
Second, do you support Sen. Vitter’s bill to overturn the executive order exemption and remove subsidies for staff and members buying insurance on the exchanges?
Don’t accept the “I can’t discuss personnel matters” dodge. It’s a lie. The law requires members to state if they have declared staff “official” or “non-official” even though many offices don’t.
The one member you won’t have to ask is Vitter. He’s so serious that not only is all staff “official,” he also negotiated a special policy with the Louisiana exchange that makes him the only senator in the nation that receives absolutely no taxpayer subsidy for his insurance.
Which doesn’t make him popular with fellow members, but makes him a hero to taxpayers.
Michael R. Shannon is a commentator, researcher (for the League of American Voters), and an award-winning political and advertising consultant with nationwide and international experience. He is author of "Conservative Christian’s Guidebook for Living in Secular Times (Now with added humor!)." Read more of Michael Shannon's reports — Go Here Now.

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Right now Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is not very popular in Harry Reid’s Democrat Senate. The irony is he may not be much more popular with the leadership in Mitch McConnell’s Republican Senate next year.
Congress, Staff, Taxpayers, Vitter
Friday, 12 December 2014 11:24 AM
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