GOP members offer amendment to force Congress to participate in public option

Five House Republicans hope to add to Democrats' healthcare reform bill an amendment that would automatically enroll members of Congress in the public option program.

The effort, spearheaded by Reps. John Fleming (La.), Joe Wilson (S.C.), Wally Herger (Calif.), Phil Gingrey (Ga.) and Steve Scalise (La.), would bar lawmakers from participating in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which they currently use for health insurance. Instead, members would have to rely on the Health Insurance Exchange and the public option plan House Democrats are proposing in their latest healthcare reform effort.

“If Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.] and her Democratic counterparts truly believe that their government insurance option is the best way forward for healthcare in the United States, then they should be fully supportive of amending the bill to ensure that every single member of Congress, both in the House and Senate, is enrolled in it," explained Rep. Gingrey, who is leading the new campaign.

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"Today, I stand with my Republican colleagues and challenge the Democrats to accept this amendment that simply says those who plan to vote for the public plan will also commit to joining their constituents in the public plan," he added. "To do any less smacks of hypocrisy and highlights the lack of Democratic leadership that exists here in Washington."

Republicans first offered an amendment that would require lawmakers to participate in the public plan when the House Energy and Commerce Committee considered H.R. 3200, the current healthcare bill's predecessor. Democrats defeated it, and the House ultimately abandoned the bill to which it was supposed to be attached.

But Gingrey and his colleagues are reviving their efforts just as House Democrats prepare to bring their revised healthcare bill to the floor. They hope to add it to the chamber's bill before lawmakers vote on it, which could take place as early as the end of this week.

“The Pelosi healthcare bill could force millions of Americans off their current plan and onto the government-run plan, but there are hypocritical members of Congress who are not willing to enroll in the same government plan," Scalise said in his statement. "Speaker Pelosi and her lieutenants need to put their money where their mouth is and support our amendment."