Five Republicans buck GOP chairman on O-Care investigation

Five Republicans buck GOP chairman on O-Care investigation
© Greg Nash

The Senate's Small Business Committee on Thursday denied its chairman’s request to subpoena documents from the D.C. insurance marketplace, which he said would prove that some in Congress evaded ObamaCare rules.

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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.), the head of the committee, was demanding unredacted copies of health insurance applications used by members of Congress to enroll in the small-business exchange. Vitter has claimed that congressional staff falsified documents in order to allow members of Congress and their staff to receive subsidized insurance. 

In a surprising vote, five Republicans joined the committee's nine Democrats to oppose the subpoena. That GOP group includes Sen. Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziBudget chairs press appropriators on veterans spending Forcing faith-based agencies out of the system is a disservice to women Senate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs MORE (Wyo.), who had previously co-sponsored a bill with Vitter on the issue. Republican Sens. Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischGOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE Senate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs GOP lawmaker presses Bolton to examine Obama administration's response to Russian cyberattacks MORE (Idaho), Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerEPA signs off on rule exempting farmers from reporting emissions GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE The real reason Scott Pruitt is gone: Putting a key voting bloc at risk MORE (Neb.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulPaul seeks to cut off Planned Parenthood funds via massive spending bill Arizona GOP Senate candidate defends bus tour with far-right activist Trump plays 'quick round of golf' with Rand Paul in New Jersey MORE (Ky.) and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteNew Hampshire governor signs controversial voting bill Former Arizona senator to shepherd Supreme Court nominee through confirmation process Shut the back door to America's opioid epidemic MORE (N.H.) also voted against the subpoena.

Four Republicans voted in favor, including Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP lawmakers raise concerns over research grants to colleges with Confucius Institutes Paid family leave could give new parents a much-needed lifeline GOP looks to injure Nelson over Russia comments MORE (R-Fla.). 

Condemning the vote, Vitter vowed to continue to fight what he calls “Washington’s special ObamaCare exemption.”

“The message is clear: Congress should be able to lie so that members can get a special Obamacare subsidy unavailable to anyone else at that income level,” Vitter said in a sharply worded statement.

Vitter's staff had previously said that all GOP senators, except Paul, would vote "yes."

The Louisiana senator, who is running for governor, wanted the exchange to turn over nine pages of applications. He said the documents would prove findings from a months-long investigation, which he said uncovered “blatantly false misrepresentations” in members’ applications for ObamaCare.

He had previously obtained copies of the applications, but said they were erased of “any information that could identify the source of these fraudulent statements.”

Even with the redactions, Vitter said he found glaring concerns on the documents, such as claims that Congress employs 50 or fewer full-time employees and a list of employee names “that are clearly made up.”

“I have given D.C. Health Link ample time to cooperate with this simple request, and have made a strong effort to be reasonable and to work with them without the need to resort to compulsory means,” Vitter told the committee during its markup Thursday.

Vitter, a fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act, has accused congressional clerks of filing false information with the D.C. marketplace to ensure that lawmakers and staff could obtain subsidized health insurance through the system.

Congress obtains health insurance through the D.C. exchange under an ObamaCare provision intended to make Capitol Hill equal to people buying coverage on the marketplaces.

—This report was updated at 11:19 a.m.