Sen. Charles Grassley, the wily Iowa Republican, slipped a provision into Obamacare in 2010 requiring members of Congress and their staffs to participate in the health care program. What was good for ordinary people, it turned out, was anathema to the mandarins, who belatedly discovered that the provision ended taxpayer subsidies for their health insurance. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid then labored for months behind closed doors to repeal or circumvent the provision. The result, according to Politico, was the recent opinion issued by the Office of Personnel Management, at the urging of President Obama, that protected the subsidies.
But things got complicated when conservatives in the House seized on the Grassley provision in their campaign to defund, delay or repeal Obamacare. Boehner joined the chorus as the prospect of a government shutdown neared. It was a classic example of public position conflicting with private actions. Boehner and the House Republican caucus proceeded to bash Democrats for seeking to protect the congressional premium subsidy.
Many of these same Republicans feigned outrage over the double standard created when a law like Obamacare treats congressional figures with a lighter hand than it does most other Americans. The Republicans even attached an amendment to repeal the offending Obamacare provision in their continuing resolution to keep the government open while loudly proclaiming their devotion to treating everybody equally.
Michael Steele, Boehner’s spokesman, denied that anything untoward happened and insisted that the speaker was innocent of hypocrisy, since his position has always been to repeal Obamacare root and branch. That’s fine as far as it goes, but it's been common knowledge for months among journalists covering Congress that protecting the subsidies was a widely shared goal of senators, representatives and staff, irrespective of party or ideology.
In defending his boss, Steele said: “The speaker’s position is clear: He voted against Obamacare, and he wants to repeal Obamacare. If the Senate Democrats and the White House wanted to make a ‘fix’ to the law, it would be their fix. The speaker’s ‘fix’ is repeal. This is just a desperate act by Harry Reid’s staff to protect their own subsidy.” In truth, everyone's subsidies would be protected by Boehner's fix.