Policy

Conservatives Continue Push to Kill Health Care Benefits for Lawmakers, Staff

Even before Republicans sent their latest continuing resolution gambit to the Senate, some Republicans were already angling for the next legislative volley.

If the Senate rejects the House's one-year delay to Obamacare, among other add-ons — as it is expected to — several House GOP lawmakers said they would continue to push for a provision that would prevent members of Congress and their staffs from receiving employer contributions for health care purchased on Obamacare exchanges.

Rep. Dennis A. Ross, R-Fla., who has been pushing such a proposal, said he believes the amendment "has a lot of leverage." He said he wasn't sure if House GOP leaders were considering it, but said, "I'm hopeful."

Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise of Louisiana said his conservative bloc of lawmakers has been advocating to include Ross' amendment in the CR.

"It's still a tool we have in our tool chest," he said. "If the law's so good it should apply to everybody. But if its not good it shouldn't apply to anybody and that's what this fight is all about."

But Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., indicated how divisive the proposal has become among House Republicans.

"I think it would be a terrible idea," he said.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has been pushing a similar measure in the Senate, holding up an energy efficiency bill in an attempt to get a vote on it.

Congressional leaders worked over the summer to convince the Office of Personnel Management to rule that congressional employees would still be allowed to receive an employer contribution when they move their insurance to the Obamacare exchanges.

The original language forcing lawmakers and staff onto the exchanges was proposed by Sen. Charles E. Grassely, R-Iowa. He said this week that the OPM ruling should not have been needed and blamed a drafting error on the health care law's seeming prohibition on congressional staff receiving employer contributions.

Paul Krawzak contributed to this post.