GOP moves to kill exemption for Congress in healthcare bill

GOP moves to kill exemption for Congress in healthcare bill
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Republican leadership has moved to cut controversial language from its healthcare bill that would exempt Congress and their staff from changes to ObamaCare.

An amendment to the House GOP's ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill would have allowed states to seek waivers for certain ObamaCare regulations, but lawmakers and their staff would be exempt from the changes.

A new bill authored by Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) would remove the exemption. 

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GOP staff and lawmakers said the exemption was originally added to comply with Senate rules but acknowledged that it was politically problematic.

"That'll be fixed. That was written in to comply with some Senate rules to make sure it's just a budget vote," said Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), who authored the amendment. 

Because the healthcare bill is being done through reconciliation — a special budget bill immune to filibuster — its language must have an effect on the budget to comply with Senate rules. 

"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 said. 

Democrats quickly latched onto the exemption, touting it as proof that the bill is so bad, its supporters don't want to be subject to it.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) launched digital ads in 30 Republican-held districts, including those of MacArthur and Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), attacking the exemption.    

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

Even moderate Republicans who oppose the overall bill trashed the exemption.

"This is outrageous and the height of hypocrisy," Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) wrote on his Facebook page Wednesday. 

The MacArthur amendment was added to grow support among conservative Republicans, who have opposed the bill because it doesn't repeal enough of ObamaCare. 

With the amendment, the conservative House Freedom Caucus endorsed the bill Wednesday. 

But the bill still doesn't appear to have the support to pass. Several moderate Republicans have said they are still voting "no" on the bill. 

The amendment would allow states to apply for waivers to ObamaCare regulations that require insurers charge everyone the same amount for premiums, regardless of medical condition, and another requirement that mandates what services insurers must cover. 

In states that opt out of the regulations, people with pre-existing conditions could be charged more by insurance companies, as long as that state has a high-risk pool for people priced out of coverage.