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 VitterPlanned Parenthood targets judicial nominee over abortion comments Trump nominates wife of ex-Louisiana senator to be federal judge Where is due process in all the sexual harassment allegations? 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 EnziAmerica's budget deficit is a ticking time bomb Abolishing Budget Committee hits a symptom, not the disease Supreme Court weighs future of online sales taxes MORE (Wyo.), who had previously co-sponsored a bill with Vitter on the issue. Republican Sens. Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischChanging the rules won't fix congressional dysfunction Senate approves .3 trillion spending bill, sending to Trump Overnight Health Care: FDA takes first step to cut nicotine levels in cigarettes | Trump's health chief backs official at center of abortion fight | Trump opioid plan will reportedly include death penalty for some drug dealers MORE (Idaho), Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerMeet the Democratic sleeper candidate gunning for Senate in Nebraska Tariff fight could hit GOP in key Senate states Russia, China eclipse US in hypersonic missiles, prompting fears MORE (Neb.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP senator: Democratic opposition to Pompeo 'driven 100 percent by politics' Pompeo lacks votes for positive vote on panel CIA declassifies memo on nominee's handling of interrogation tapes MORE (Ky.) and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteAudit finds US Defense Department wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars US sends A-10 squadron to Afghanistan for first time in three years No, the US did not spend million on a gas station in Afghanistan MORE (N.H.) also voted against the subpoena.

Four Republicans voted in favor, including Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP Senate candidates trade barbs in brutal Indiana primary Students gather outside White House after walkout to protest gun violence Overnight Energy: Senate confirms Bridenstine as NASA chief | Watchdog probes Pruitt’s use of security detail | Emails shine light on EPA science policy changes 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.