Republican senators reject idea of lawmaker exemption from Obamacare

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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WASHINGTON — Republican senators pushed back on the idea that Congress ought to receive an exemption from the health-care exchanges required under Obamacare, after Politico reported Thursday that leaders from both parties had been involved in negotiations to do just that for aides and lawmakers.

The report says that lawmakers are concerned that if aides’ health insurance premiums are not subsidized by their employer, the federal government, they could see those costs skyrocket to levels they might not be able to pay. It is not clear if under Obamacare, the federal government would be able to do so.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina issued a terse an disapproving statement.

“Obamacare is a train wreck. Congress shouldn’t be able to get out of Obamacare until everyone else does,” he said.

“I voted against imposing the new health-care law on America, but I don’t think Congress ought to be treated any differently than the rest of the country,” said Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee in a statement emailed to The Daily Caller.

Sen. Ted Cruz, a freshman Republican from Texas who has been adamant about the need to repeal the health-care law in full, wrote on Twitter that the whole country should be getting an exemption, not just Congress.

“Rather than exempt Congress from Obamacare, we ought to work on permanently exempting all of America w/ a #FullRepeal,” he tweeted Thursday morning.

Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia had a similar take.

“I am strongly opposed to any effort to exempt Congress from the ObamaCare exchanges. I have consistently called for the full repeal of ObamaCare, but as long as it is the law of the land, Congress must be subject to it,” he said in a statement.

“It’s encouraging to see that Democrats in Congress are having second thoughts about their health care law, now that its disastrous consequences are hitting close to home. I hope Democrats will now come to the table and work with us to spare all Americans from skyrocketing health insurance premiums and the rest of ObamaCare’s taxes and mandates,” he added.

“All Americans ought to be exempt from the onerous and costly provisions of Obamacare, not just a select few,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas in a statement emailed to TheDC. “The only way to remedy this is to repeal the bill in its entirety.”

Adam Jentleson, communications director for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, sent a number of tweets Thursday morning pushing back on the idea that lawmakers were trying to exempt themselves from Obamacare.

Jentleson tweeted a piece by Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein entitled “No, Congress isn’t trying to exempt itself from Obamacare” multiple times, writing in one tweet: “Before freaking out about a certain Politico story, please read.”

“[N]o one is discussing ‘exempting’ congressional staffers from Obamacare,” Klein wrote. “They’re discussing creating some method through which the federal government can keep making its current contribution to the health insurance of congressional staffers.”

Reid put out a statement Thursday flatly denying that there had been any such discussions.

“Senator Reid is committed to ensuring that all members of Congress and Congressional staff experience the benefits of the Affordable Care Act in exactly the same way as every other American,” said Jentleson in the statement. “He believes that this is the effect of the legislation as written, and that therefore no legislative fix is necessary. There are not now, have never been, nor will there ever be any discussions about exempting members of Congress or Congressional staff from Affordable Care Act provisions that apply to any employees of any other public or private employer offering health care.”

Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters Thursday morning during a press conference that she had been “in close contact with Mr. [House Minority Whip Steny] Hoyer as he was in any of these conversations.” Politico reported that Hoyer was involved in the conversations.

Pelosi added that she did not, however, feel that different members of Congress and aides should be treated differently under Obamacare — a fact that was highlighted in the Politico story. Under the law, committee staffers would not be required to get health care through the exchanges, while staffers in lawmakers’ offices would.

“I think that whatever the outcome is, people have to be treated the same,” Pelosi said.

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