POLITICS: PennAve

House GOP may force Senate vote on congressional insurance subsidies

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Politics,Congress,Obamacare,Senate,Republican Party,John Boehner,Health Care,David M. Drucker,PennAve,House Republicans,Subsidies

House Republicans may try to force the Senate to vote on legislation that would strip members of Congress, their staffs and possibly executive-branch political appointees of their federal employer health insurance contributions.

That proposal is one of many options House Republicans are considering should the Democratic-led Senate reject the must-pass budget bill that the House approved Friday, a measure that would fund the government beyond Sept. 30 but defund Obamacare. Republican sources, including lawmakers, said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has discussed invoking such a strategy to force the Senate's hand on Obamacare when the chamber finally strikes from the House budget bill a provision that defunds the Affordable Care Act.

“We’ve got a number of options,” Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., said.

The concept is similar to legislation being pushed by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., in response to the Obama administration's ruling that congressional staff could maintain their employer subsidy even though the new health care law requires them to obtain health insurance through private insurance exchanges. Congressional staff have long received a federal employer contribution toward their health insurance, but Obamacare opponents have likened this to a special federal subsidy under the new law.

Some members of Congress are concerned that their best and brightest staff could quit en masse if they lose their employer health insurance contribution. Under the Affordable Care Act, even the lowest paid staff are not eligible for Obamacare federal subsidies to help them purchase health insurance through the exchanges. Congressional staff must shift from their current insurance to the exchanges beginning Jan. 1.

Given a lack of public support for Obamacare and a still sluggish economy, voting to allow members of Congress, congressional staff and executive branch political appointees to continue receiving an employer subsidy could prove politically problematic.

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