Policy

Grassley Committee Staff Won't Follow Intent Of Grassley Obamacare Rule

Grassley authored the provision forcing congressional staff onto Obamacare exchanges. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said Wednesday that only his personal office employees will enter the federal health care exchange established by the Affordable Care Act — his committee staff will not.

Grassley has the authority under Obamacare to keep his committee personnel in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program. But the Iowa Republican also authored the original provision to require members and staff to enter the exchange, and he intended for all staff to be subject to the exchanges.

In the drafting process, Democrats exempted leadership and committee staffs. But Grassley had the option to place all of his employees, regardless of their position, on the exchange.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., Senate Democratic Conference Secretary and Budget  Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., chose to require that all of their staffers, including those in leadership and on committees, enter the exchange.

"We're following the law. In order to make sure I'm following the law, I consulted the Secretary of the Senate. So as a result of the consulting of the Secretary of the Senate, my personal office will be under the exchange, my committee staff will be as they are," Grassley said. "Now that's not the way I intended it when I wrote it and got it out of Finance. It was my amendment, you know. So you understand that my intention was that everybody go to the exchange, but it was screwed up when Reid made the exceptions. So that's the law and so we're following the law."

When CQ Roll Call asked Grassley about the other leaders who opted to place all of their staff on the exchange, Grassley responded: "I'm following the law based on what the Secretary of the Senate said."

Other leaders have also used that option, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., whose staff helped write the exemption.

As Roll Call first reported earlier this month, senators have until Thursday to get their final staff designation decisions approved by the Senate Disbursing Office.