Durbin: GOP fight over staffer insurance contributions is ‘pathetic’

Lawmakers are at an impasse on how to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government, which has been shut down for more than two weeks. They are also working against an Oct. 17 deadline for raising the nation's borrowing limit. 

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House Republicans on Tuesday afternoon released the text of legislation that would extend the debt ceiling and reopen the government, but would also chip away at ObamaCare.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) applauded the House for including his “No Washington Exemption” amendment that would end employer contributions that congressional staffers currently receive. Under ObamaCare, staffers would have to enroll in the healthcare exchanges. Vitter has said if they received an employer contribution it would be an “unfair” government subsidy.

"The question will be whether this standoff is going to continue over that — members protecting their wallets and their special elite status," Vitter said during a floor exchange with Durbin. "The only significant difference between their package and what Senate Democrats have agreed to here will be that 'No Washington Exemption' language in regards to ObamaCare."

Democrats have said Vitter’s amendment harms staffers and would greatly increase their healthcare expenses. Durbin said he just wants his staffers to be treated the same as other federal employees who receive an employer contribution — most major companies also contribute to employee health expenses.

“[Vitter] doesn’t want the employer to make any contribution for my health insurance or my staffers,” Durbin said. “This is common — there is nothing sinister or sneaky about it.”

House Republicans are expected to vote on their fiscal bill tonight, but Senate Democrats have said it is dead on arrival in the Senate.