Public option for Congress

The public option should not be optional for Congress. It should be mandatory. Congress is already on a publicly funded plan more generous than almost any private plan offered anywhere in the United States. But why shouldn’t they be on the same public plan they have in store for their fellow citizens? Is it too much to ask for Pelosi, et al, to put their money where their mouth is? (Or rather, our money?)

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There were actually a few Senate Democrats who supported the notion of members of Congress living under whatever public option Washington eventually forced on us. This past summer, an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) was adopted by the Senate health committee by a 12-11 vote with an assist by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and proxy votes by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.). But since then, the blatant hypocrisy of the majority party has predictably taken over as the Democrats thumb their noses at American citizens who will live, or die, as it were, on these arrogant decisions being made in Washington.

While it would be lovely to give credit to the Senate Democrats hiding behind closed doors crafting a whole new bill from scratch and trust they will support the wishes of the late Sen. Kennedy by preserving the Coburn amendment for which Kennedy voted “aye” while too ill to cast his vote in person, it would also be naïve. Democrats won’t accept the public option for their very own selves, despite the likelihood it would save tax dollars. Neither Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) nor Pelosi wants Democratic members going “on the record” as hypocrites and elitists. Best to keep it behind closed doors, which is exactly what Democrats are doing.

But with polls indicating a slow downward spiral in public approval for the Democrat-led Congress, with a Real Clear Politics average disapproval at nearly 67 percent and a tied generic ballot, wouldn’t it make sense to demonstrate confidence in the public option elected officials in Washington are passing for the rest of us by mandating it for themselves?

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) is doing his part in the House by nudging his colleagues into doing the right thing. Ninety-six House members — all Republicans, by the way — have signed on as co-sponsors to his non-binding H.R. 615, “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that Members who vote in favor of the establishment of a public, federal government run health insurance option are urged to forgo their right to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and agree to enroll under that public option.”

Likewise, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) plans to push for an amendment similar to the Coburn language during full Senate consideration of whatever healthcare bill ends up on the Senate floor, despite the obvious and numerous obstacles inherent in being in the minority — especially in Harry Reid’s Senate. Democrats insisting on ignoring this very important moral litmus test by sweeping the committee-passed Coburn amendment under the rug could very well find themselves in a pickle come Election Day.

Forcing taxpayers to pay for a public option healthcare plan that congressional Democrats deem not good enough for themselves but just fine for the rest of us might very well be enough to prompt voters to try to take away congressional Democrats’ Cadillac plan and force a public option on them another way — by voting them out of office and sending them home to live under legislation they passed while in Washington. But even if voted out of office, members of Congress still get their plan for the rest of their natural lives with this taxpayer-funded entitlement. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

 Yes, we, the taxpayers, are very, very generous. Congress insisted on it.

Jacobus, president of Capitol Strategies PR, has managed  congressional campaigns, worked on Capitol Hill and is an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. She appears on CNN, MSNBC and FOX News as a GOP strategist.