Congressional leaders of both parties in the House and Senate are trying to exempt themselves--and their staffs--from Obamacare's health insurance exchanges they will be mandated to join under the law. This would be a devastating indictment of Obamacare and the Democrats who rammed it through. Republicans may give Democrats cover if they join them in agreeing to the exemptions.
According to a Politico report, the "high-level" talks involve Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), the Obama administration and other "top lawmakers," and both sides are "acutely aware of the potential for political fallout from giving carve-outs from the hugely controversial law to 535 lawmakers and thousands of their aides."
Noting the important role that Republican lawmakers have in the talks, a source toldPolitico that, “Everyone has to hold hands on this and jump, or nothing is going to get done.”
Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, told Politico that Boehner's "objective is to spare the entire country from the ravages of the president’s health care law. He is approached daily by American citizens, including members of Congress and staff, who want to be freed from its mandates. If the speaker has the opportunity to save anyone from Obamacare, he will.”
Congress's approval ratings are at near historic lows, and such an exemption would make them look like hypocrites and seem more out of touch for holding themselves--and their staffers--to "a different standard than the people who put them in office."
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), one of Obamacare's chief architects, though, insisted there would not be any additional costs to lawmakers and their aides because the federal government would still subsidize insurance bought on the exchanges. Others are less clear, which is why they have been discussing the exemptions.
If Waxman is wrong and the federal government does not subsidize the health insurance plans, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) said it would have a "devastating" impact on staffers who would take a $7,000-a-year hit, but he did add that he had "no problems with Congress being under the same guidelines" because if Obamacare is going to be such a disaster, "we ought to enjoy it together with our constituents.”
Republicans in 2010 insisted that Congress should have the same healthcare as the American people while President Barack Obama vowed to join the healthcare exchange. Those on Committees, though, will not have to get their healthcare through the exchange. Staffers in the lawmaker's state or district would have to join their state's exchanges and D.C. staff would most likely join D.C., Maryland, or Virginia healthcare exchanges.
According to the report, lawmakers are weighing whether to exempt themselves and their aides or just their staffers.