Sen. Vitter Blasts ‘Obnoxious’ Obamacare ‘Bailout’ For Congress, White House Staff

By Curtis Houck | August 8, 2013 | 4:38pm EDT

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) (AP)

( - Senator David Vitter (R-La.) has urged President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders to overturn a recent decision allowing members of Congress and their staffs to continue receiving a taxpayer-funded allowance to help cover their health insurance premiums, and even exempting some from enrolling in health care exchanges under the president's health care law.

Describing the "bailout" as "particularly offensive and obnoxious," Vitter said Wednesday that the decision by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) was "pulled out of thin air under intense and, sadly, bipartisan political pressure."

In a letter sent to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Vitter said that "the Obamacare statute states very clearly that all Members of Congress and their staffs are to procure their health insurance through the Obamacare Exchange," and "no ordinary American....buying on the Exchange would receive any government subsidy, much less one worth $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for a family, under the OPM rule for Congress only."

The original provision in the law, offered by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), required lawmakers and their staffs to enroll in the exchanges just like their fellow Americans. However, the OPM (and reportedly leadership in both parties) came to believe that the amendment did not bar them from continuing to receive federal funding via taxpayers.

Currently, members of Congress, their staff, the President, Vice President, and their political appointees all receive generous health care benefits through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP). Under Obamacare, members of Congress and their staffs were expected to fully enroll in the health care exchanges, a central component of Obama's health care law.

Under the exemption, they will be able to keep FEHBP benefits previously eliminated under Obamacare.

The push to make the controversial change picked up steam last week after Democrats and congressional staffers expressed concerns about the expected cost of their new health care plans under Obamacare. The New York Times reported July 29 that a plan for a single individual would have ranged from $5,000 to $11,000 a year.

The Louisiana Republican urged Obama and Congress "to undo this action legislatively as soon as we return to session in September so that Congress stands with the American people and doesn't treat itself like a higher, selected ruling class.

"The recent maneuverings inside the Beltway are precisely why the American people rightly despise Congress. OPM's 'solution', demanded by leading members of Congress and crafted behind closed doors, is being viewed as an act of self-dealing special treatment - and rightfully so."

Vitter closed by demanding that "until Obamacare is fully repealed, those elected by the public must abide by the same law Americans are being forced to live with."

In a similarly worded letter to the president, Vitter pressed Obama to reverse the change himself as opposed to Congress passing legislation reversing the decision, which Vitter says he plans to pursue when Congress returns in September.

"Make our legislative fix unnecessary," he pleaded with the President.  "Please do this yourself, and do it now."

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