GOP amendment to CR would cancel Congress's ObamaCare 'fix'


Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) is ready to challenge Democrats on Congress's ObamaCare "fix" on a government-funding bill. 

An amendment from Ross would bar lawmakers and staff from retaining their longtime employer healthcare subsidy once they shift into ObamaCare's new marketplaces. 

It comes as House GOP leaders are searching for a way to respond once the Senate, as expected, rejects an initial continuing resolution that attempted to defund ObamaCare. 

The Florida Republican said he is gathering support to attach the divisive measure to the must-pass government spending bill this weekend, putting members of both parties on the spot. The government will shut down unless a new funding bill is in place by Oct. 1.

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Congress's healthcare has become a political football as Republicans seek leverage to undercut the Affordable Care Act.

The law requires members and their staffs to obtain coverage on the new insurance marketplaces, instead of the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) like other government workers.

Like many private sector employers, the FEHBP subsidizes premiums for its enrollees, including employees on Capitol Hill.

But the average contribution of 70 percent is seen as particularly generous and a means to attract top talent to public service.

The controversy arose when lawmakers discovered that ObamaCare provides no clear way for Capitol Hill to retain its subsidized coverage on the marketplaces.

The enrollment systems are designed for uninsured people who are not offered coverage through their workplaces with individual health plans.

These patients frequently pay more for their health insurance than peers who are covered through their employer.

Congressional leaders feared a mass exodus of staffers angry about healthcare costs if the subsidies were lost, and they asked the White House to allow Capitol Hill to retain subsidized premiums on the marketplaces.

The Office of Personnel Management released guidance in August doing just this.

It was immediately denounced by ObamaCare's critics as an "exception" for lawmakers and their staff. 

Ross and his allies argue that Congress and its staff should pay for premiums on ObamaCare's exchanges exactly as an uninsured person would.

The Florida Republican predicted Thursday that if lawmakers are forced to pay the same costs as regular people, they will begin to oppose ObamaCare in greater numbers.

"I am hopeful that once all members are subjected to it, everyone who doesn't already will realize how bad this law is and join together and eliminate ObamaCare," Ross said in a statement.

His amendment would also apply to the president, vice president and political appointees. 

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is the sponsor of a similar amendment in the Senate. Democrats blocked him from bringing up the measure Thursday as the chamber worked on the House-passed continuing resolution.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is preparing to strip out a provision from that bill that would defund ObamaCare and then send the measure back to the House.

But Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday that he is unlikely to accept a spending bill with no GOP priorities attached.

Ross's amendment could be among the demands attached to the measure before it is presumably sent back to the Senate this weekend.

The maneuvering continues less than a week before the government could shut down.