Dodd, Mikulski join Brown effort on GOP healthcare amendment

Sens. Chris Dodd (Conn.) and Barbara Mikulski (Md.) filed a unanimous consent request with Brown on Friday to co-sponsor an amendment being drafted by GOP Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and David Vitter of Louisiana.

The legislation would require lawmakers to join a public insurance plan included in healthcare legislation. Vitter is also considering proposing banning physician services currently available to legislators at the Capitol as well as taxpayer-funded services they are allowed at Bethesda Medical Center and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

“If we have a public option in this plan — and my hope is that we will — then I think there is nothing wrong with insisting that members of Congress be included,” Dodd said. “We support it in our committee, and I'm prepared to support it again here on the floor of the United States Senate.”

“I want to add my name to Sen. Coburn’s amendment,” Brown said in a floor speech on Friday. “Seventeen years ago, when I first ran for Congress, I promised I’d pay my own health insurance until Congress passed health insurance for everyone. I’ve paid it out of my pocket since then. I look forward with great eagerness to join the public option as soon as it’s available.”

Brown sent a Tweet upon leaving the Senate floor that he has been allowed to join the Coburn-Vitter effort.

A Coburn spokesman, however, pointed out that Brown actually voted against the Coburn amendment when the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee debated it.

"We’re delighted to have Sen. Brown’s support of Dr. Coburn’s amendment, particularly after he voted against it in HELP Committee," said spokesman John Hart. "We’re glad that he shares our view that members of Congress should lead by example and enroll themselves in the public option." 

A Brown spokeswoman said Coburn offered a different amendment in the HELP Committee, one that would require members of Congress plus their staffs to enroll in a public option plan. The current Coburn-Vitter amendment which Brown is co-sponsoring would only apply to members of Congress.

A Vitter spokesman also said Friday that Vitter, who is up for reelection next year, has no objection to any Democrats co-sponsoring the amendment.

Members of Congress have a variety of healthcare plans and providers available to them under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, although senators have been considering some type of congressional requirement as part of any bill.

This story was updated at 2:34 p.m.