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.

Sen. David VitterDavid VitterDavid Duke gets debate slot in La. Senate race GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election Trump’s implosion could cost GOP in Louisiana Senate race 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 EnziMike EnziGOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election Report: Feds spend billions on PR Restive GOP freshmen eye entitlement reform MORE (Wyo.), who had previously co-sponsored a bill with Vitter on the issue. Republican Sens. Jim RischJim RischGOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election GOP to Obama: Sanction Chinese entities to get to North Korea Research: Infrastructure systems easy to hack, a little slow to patch MORE (Idaho), Deb FischerDeb FischerGOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election No. 3 GOP senator: I'll still vote for Trump GOP Senate candidate reverses on Trump in debate MORE (Neb.), Rand PaulRand PaulWhat the 'Bernie Sanders wing of the GOP' can teach Congress GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election How low is the bar for presidential candidates, anyway? MORE (Ky.) and Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteHigh anxiety for GOP Trump: 'Very disappointed' GOP senator dropped support NH poll: Dem challenger pulls ahead of Ayotte MORE (N.H.) also voted against the subpoena.

Four Republicans voted in favor, including Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioRubio: GOP Congress could go in different direction than Trump Poll: Clinton holds 4-point lead in Florida Republicans, it's time to stop asking 'What would Reagan do?' 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.