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Public Statements

Making Continuing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. JOHNSON of Wisconsin. Mr. President, I rise to speak to an amendment I filed on H.J. Res. 59, the continuing resolution. It is a pretty simple amendment. It simply prohibits that funds be used for a government contribution for the health insurance of Members of Congress and their staffs under ObamaCare.

Now, you might ask, well, why would I, as a former employer, want to prevent an employer from contributing to health plans for Members of Congress and their staffs?

Well, the simple reason is, because of the passage of ObamaCare, it expressly prohibited funds from being contributed by the Federal Government to Members of Congress and their staff's health care plans.

I do not believe the President has any legal authority and I certainly do not believe the Office of Personnel Management has the authority to circumvent the Affordable Care Act.

I am exactly on board with Senator Moran in certainly wishing that we could repeal the health care law in its entirety, that we could defund it, that we could do anything we could to limit the damage. But the fact is, it is the law of the land, and we need to respect the law of the land.

I have looked through the legislative history of the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It seems very clear what the intent of Congress was.

Back on September 29, 2009, as this was being debated by the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Grassley offered an amendment that was adopted without objection that would require Members of Congress and their staff to ``use their employer contribution ..... to purchase coverage through a state-based exchange, rather than using the traditional selection of plans offered through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan.''

Again, that amendment was adopted without objection. Apparently, Members of Congress at that point in time thought that the State-based exchanges were going to offer such fabulous health care that they wanted to make sure that Members of Congress and their staff could avail themselves of that opportunity.

So on October 19, 2009, that Grassley provision was incorporated into the Finance Committee's America's Healthy Future Act. But there was an addition to that amendment made that basically provided for an employer contribution. Section (B)(ii) says:

the employer contributions may be made directly to an exchange for payment to an offerer.

So at that point in time it was the express will of Congress that the employer--the Federal Government--could actually contribute to the health care plan purchased through the exchange.

The problem arises, however, that when Senator Reid actually offered the language for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on November 18, 2009, it specifically said:

the only health plans that the Federal Government may make available to Members of Congress and congressional staff with respect to their service as a Member of Congress or congressional staff shall be health plans that are one--

(l) created under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act); or

(ll) offered through an Exchange established under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act).

There was absolutely no provision made whatsoever for an employer contribution to those health care plans.

On December 24, 2009, Christmas Eve, the Senate passed that bill making no provision for an employer contribution to those plans purchased through an exchange. It was passed on pure party lines, 60 to 40.

On March 21, 2010, the House passed the exact same legislation. But then there was a debate in terms of reconciliation, and Senator Grassley once again offered an amendment that would have provided an employer contribution to those plans purchased through the exchange. It was explicitly stated that employer contribution could be made. But that amendment was voted down. It was voted down. The vote was 43 to 56. All but three Democratic Senators voted no. In the end, the health care law was passed. That reconciliation was passed on March 25, 2010.

Now, it happened recently--on July 31, 2013--that President Obama came over here to the Hill and met with Democratic Senators because, as Nancy Pelosi famously stated, we have to pass this health care law before we can figure out what is in it, before we know what is in it. Well, once Senators found out what was in it--that they were going to have to purchase their health care through an exchange and the Federal Government could not make any payment for those health care plans--they panicked and they asked President Obama to please correct that. So President Obama heard their plea and directed his Office of Personnel Management to propose a rule that would allow the Federal Government to pay or make a contribution to those State-based exchange plans.

Now, I would argue that the OPM--President Obama--has no legal authority whatsoever to make those contributions, which is the purpose of my amendment. There will be millions of Americans who will lose their employer-sponsored health insurance for various reasons but because of the passage of the health care law. Once they have lost that coverage, they--every other American--will have to purchase insurance either in the open market or through a State-based or Federal exchange. Their employers will be barred. They will not have the opportunity to make an employer-contribution to help pay for those health care plans.

The only way a normal American gets to have any subsidy in those exchanges is if their income qualifies them for a subsidy under the Affordable Care Act. The only Americans who now--because of this OPM ruling--will actually have their employer be able to make a contribution are Members of Congress and their staffs. That is simply wrong. That is special treatment. It really should not stand.

So my amendment basically acknowledges that this is the law of land; that President Obama--the Office of Personnel Management--has no legal authority to have that contribution take place. So it simply prohibits funds to be used for a government contribution for the health insurance of Members of Congress and their staffs under ObamaCare.

With that, I yield the floor.


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