All Senate GOP staff going on ObamaCare

Senate Republican staffers will be required to obtain health insurance through ObamaCare's exchanges under a rule passed Wednesday by the GOP Conference.

The proposal from Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterSenate panel advances Trump nominee who wouldn't say if Brown v. Board of Education was decided correctly Planned Parenthood targets judicial nominee over abortion comments Trump nominates wife of ex-Louisiana senator to be federal judge MORE (R-La.) means that Senate Republicans will designate their staff as "official," moving them automatically onto the marketplaces.

ADVERTISEMENT
A loophole used in both chambers allows lawmakers to designate staff as "unofficial" or "official staff," which permits them to keep their insurance coverage under the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.

"Republican senators made a strong, principled statement today in passing my resolution," Vitter said in a statement.

"Washington should have to live under ObamaCare just like everybody else until we repeal it. And we won't be complicit in Obama's illegal rule designed to protect Washington insiders."

Vitter is an outspoken critic of some lawmakers' decision to keep their staff off the marketplaces.

He also opposes the employer subsidy for insurance given to lawmakers and staff by the government, arguing it gives Congress an unfair advantage. The question of whether staffers will still receive financial help to pay for their coverage was not addressed in Wednesday's resolution.

The GOP Conference challenged Senate Democrats to adopt a similar policy and not allow their aides to remain on the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. 

The Republican policy applies to all staff regardless of whether they work in a personal, committee or leadership office. Cloakroom and other aides are also included.

The fate of Vitter's resolution was initially uncertain after the conference vote was bumped on Nov. 13. 

It's a tricky issue for lawmakers who risk alienating staff by pushing them off the popular federal employee health plan. 

The debate goes back to before ObamaCare's passage. 

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyFlake threatens to limit Trump court nominees: report On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Markets roiled by Trump's new tariff threat | Trump lashes out at Canada over trade | Warren looks to block Trump pick for consumer agency The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Defiant Trump meets with House GOP amid border blowback MORE (R-Iowa) succeeded in including language in the law that requires lawmakers and staff to obtain health insurance on the exchanges. 

A wave of controversy then hit in the summer of 2013 after lawmakers pressured the administration to continue providing an employer subsidy for Congress's medical coverage. 

Without a contribution toward premiums, proponents argued, the cost of health insurance would rise substantially for aides and cause a mass exodus to the private sector. 

The administration responded with regulations allowing lawmakers and staff on the exchanges to continue to receive an employer subsidy. 

The contribution is distinct from premium tax credits available to eligible exchange enrollees. Staffers do not qualify for those subsidies. 

While the decision by the Office of Personnel Management drew a sigh of relief across Capitol Hill, some Republicans, including Vitter, were furious. 

"These recent maneuverings inside the Beltway are precisely why the American people rightly despise Congress," he said at the time. "Perhaps if White House appointees and Congress have to live under these same ObamaCare rules, things would be changed quickly for the better."

This story was last updated at 3:15 p.m.