GOP to kill language exempting staff from new ObamaCare repeal bill

GOP to kill language exempting staff from new ObamaCare repeal bill
© Greg Nash

Republicans say they will kill a provision in their new ObamaCare replacement bill that would have exempted members of Congress and their staffs from some of its effects. 

An amendment to the American Health Care Act intended to win over conservatives would allow states to apply for waivers for certain ObamaCare provisions — but it wouldn’t apply to Congress.

Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), an author of the new language, said he is working with leadership to remove the exemption.

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“That’ll be fixed,” he said. “That was written in to comply with some Senate rules to make sure it’s just a budget vote. … Leadership has already committed that we will have a stand-alone bill that corrects that. Congress, my staff, we’re on the Affordable Care Act exchange. We need to live by the same rules as everyone else, period. And I will make sure that is fixed before a vote.”

MacArthur’s amendment, negotiated with Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, would gives states the ability to opt out of ObamaCare rules that keep insurers from charging premiums based on a customer’s health and require basic health plans to cover certain services, like prescription drugs and mental healthcare. 

It isn’t entirely clear why or how language exempting lawmakers and staffers ended up in the amendment.

A senior aide to GOP leadership said the language was written to comply with Senate procedural rules and that they are looking at ways to address the issue, which could include separate legislation to remove it. 

GOP aides said the language was added by the Senate Budget Committee, but Senate GOP sources disputed that claim.

Meadows also said Wednesday that he is “100 percent confident” the exemption will be removed from the bill. 

Democrats quickly jumped on the controversy, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) launching digital ads in 30 Republican-held districts, including those of MacArthur and Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.). 

“This digital ad campaign will educate voters in targeted districts about this morally bankrupt Congressional Carveout,” DCCC Spokesman Tyler Law said in a statement. 

Health insurance for lawmakers and their staffs was one of the most contentious issues when ObamaCare was initially debated. Before ObamaCare, Congress received the same health insurance as other federal employees. 

But an amendment from Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill MORE (R-Iowa) required congressional offices to provide coverage through the ObamaCare market. 

At the time, he said he wanted lawmakers to “go through the same red tape as every other citizen.”