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No Special Exemption for Members of Congress Under Obamacare

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. ROSS. Mr. Speaker, you know the only thing worse right now than having the implementation of this health care law known as ObamaCare on October 1 would be the implementation of this law with special consideration to Members of Congress. And some may say that's not going to happen because Members of Congress are subjected to and not exempted from ObamaCare; and the short answer to that is yes, but the real answer is no. And the real answer is no because there is a state of confusion over whether we, as Members of Congress and certain staff members, can continue to receive a 72 percent contribution to our health care benefits.

Now to understand this, let's go back to how this even became an issue. Senator Grassley, at the time that the ObamaCare bill was being debated, wanted to make sure that Members of Congress and their staff were subjected to the pains and the ills and everything else of ObamaCare. He offered an amendment that said:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, Members of Congress and congressional employees would be required to use their employer contribution to purchase coverage through a State-based exchange rather than using the traditional Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan.

That was offered. What became law is different. The language that became law specifically says that 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 either created under this act or the exchanges. Then it went on to further say that staff is just considered those who are employed by the Members of Congress. It doesn't include staff of committee and staff of leadership.

Now why all the confusion? I don't know, but I know for a fact that when the Office of Personnel Management came out with their letter on August 7 and said, without any basis--any basis in law or fact--and said, you know what, we're going to let Congress continue to have their 72 percent contribution even though the law was clear when it was passed that we are not going to receive anything other than the subsidies allowed under the law, and those subsidies only are available to those who make 400 percent of poverty level or less.

And so we're here on the eve of watching a health care plan go into place when the American public has given us--and probably deservedly so--an approval rating in single digits, and say, There they go again. Congress has found a special provision for themselves so they will not feel the pain and the economic harm caused by this health care bill.

Mr. Speaker, we can correct this. We can stand up as a collegial body, Republican and Democrat, and say we believe we need to be subjected to the law 100 percent and we think OPM is wrong. And if we want the American public to have what they desperately need to have in this Congress, which is the credibility of this Congress, we need to pass my amendment to the continuing resolution being offered today that says that this OPM letter was wrong and that all Members of Congress, all staff, the President, the Vice President, and all political employees will be subjected to the laws of ObamaCare and not receive this contribution. My friends back home will not receive this contribution. We shouldn't carve out a specialty to ourselves.

Further, what is worse is that if we don't make some change to this law, people will say there will be a brain drain. I see more of a litigation train starting--a litigation train because we've already put in the law a special class of employees. My employees are now subject to the laws of ObamaCare, but the leadership and their employees aren't. I see litigation ensuing on employment discrimination cases that are absolutely unnecessary and could be avoided if we have the foresight, if we have the ability to say, America, we're going to correct this; we're going to make sure that we are subject to all the laws, 100 percent, the same way we ask you to be.

Therefore, Members, I ask, I implore you to please consider this amendment, consider doing what is right, not only under the law but in the eyes of our constituency.

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