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 VitterFormer GOP rep joins K Street lobbying firm Capitol Counsel Lobbying World Mercury brings on former Sen. Vitter, two others 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 EnziTop Dem: Trump's State Dept. cuts a 'Ponzi scheme' Republicans eye strategy for repealing Wall Street reform Lawmakers fundraise amid rising town hall pressure MORE (Wyo.), who had previously co-sponsored a bill with Vitter on the issue. Republican Sens. Jim RischJim RischA guide to the committees: Senate Ryan tries to save tax plan Senate GOP votes to silence Warren after speech against Sessions MORE (Idaho), Deb FischerDeb FischerGOP rep scolds Gillibrand for tearing into Marine general over nude-photo scandal Senators tear into Marines on nude photo scandal Five takeaways from the Scott Pruitt emails MORE (Neb.), Rand PaulRand PaulGOP rep: Trump could be 'one-term president' if healthcare bill passes Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief urges Congress to approve budget boost | Senate fight over NATO addition Defying Trump, Freedom Caucus insists it'll oppose GOP ObamaCare replacement MORE (Ky.) and Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteFEC commissioner to Trump: Prove voter fraud Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing Lewandowski saw no evidence of voter fraud in New Hampshire MORE (N.H.) also voted against the subpoena.

Four Republicans voted in favor, including Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioDem senator: House Intel chairman may have revealed classified info Five takeaways from Labor pick’s confirmation hearing GOP insists FBI probe won’t slow up Trump 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.