Politics

Vitter Demands Answers On Congress’ Obamacare Exemption, Blocks OPM Chair Nomination

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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter

Sen. [crscore]David Vitter[/crscore] announced Thursday he is blocking acting head of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Beth Cobert’s nomination to be director of the agency until she responds to his request for information on Congress’s Obamacare exemption.

In a letter sent to Cobert dated Wednesday, the Louisiana Republican slammed the OPM employee’s failure to respond to earlier inquisitions into why the OPM allowed Congress – which has around 16,000 employees – to purchase its health care through the Small Business Health Options Plan (SHOP) marketplace, which requires businesses to have 50 or fewer employees.

“As much as federal bureaucrats enjoy hiding behind layers of red tape, we have now reached the point where OPM can no longer avoid explaining how Congress was allowed to purchase health insurance as a small business – when it clearly is not,” he said in a statement. “Ms. Cobert’s nomination will not move forward in any capacity until the American people have received answers as to why Washington’s Obamacare Exemption exists.”

The senator wrote a similar letter to Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen Feb. 10, after discovering the tax forms provided to those working for the legislative branch lists Congress as a large employer, despite being listed as a small employer to purchase insurance. He alleged they are ““misrepresenting itself to either DC Health Link or the IRS.”

Vitter asked Cobert for disclosure on any correspondence with the White House, lawmakers and their staff on the topic prior to the issuing of the final rule in October 2013. He also asked if anyone at the agency questioned whether OPM had the authority to determine if the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan contribution could be used toward private plans or those purchased through the exchange.

“It is not easy for Americans to trust their leadership in Washington when Congress cannot seem to figure out if they are a large employer or a small business,” he wrote.

Vitter gave the agency until March 11 to respond.

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