Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., applauded a Senate committee for declining to subpoena the District of Columbia government Thursday, but not before saving some choice words for its chairman, Sen. David Vitter, R-La.
"Perhaps after having his hat handed to him by his own colleagues, Vitter will cease this mean-spirited attempt to deprive Members and staff of employer contributions to their health insurance premiums,” Norton said at the end of her lengthy statement. On Thursday morning, Vitter pushed his panel to subpoena documents from the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority as part of his crusade against government-employer contributions to congressional health care plans. Congress is part of the D.C. small business exchange, which maintained the contribution, and applications to the exchange showed the House and Senate claimed to have fewer than 50 employees. Vitter utilized his position as chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee to attempt to subpoena un-redacted applications to learn which congressional employees signed off on classifying Congress as a small business.
But on Thursday, five Small Business Committee Republicans, and all of the panel's Democrats, voted against Vitter's request to subpoena the documents, stalling his investigation. To Norton, the attempt to subpoena the documents from D.C. was deplorable since D.C. does not have any senators to defend the District.
"Senator Vitter had previously asked for the enrollment information from the Exchange, the House and the Senate, who had refused to give it,” Norton said. “However, it appears he thought he could subpoena the small guy on the block, the District of Columbia, whose residents have no senator to fight back."
Norton also said Vitter's request was politically motivated given Vitter's interest in running for governor of Louisiana. "Senator Vitter is on a transparently political crusade to burnish his conservative credentials before the October elections and sought to go after the Affordable Care Act and the District of Columbia at the same time," she said. It is unclear how congressional health care would have been affected had Vitter succeeded in issuing the subpoeana and revealed which congressional employees signed off on the exchange applications. Such was a point Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., noted during the committee's markup.
"I’m not sure if we get the information, what happens to all the employees that are covered by insurance at the present time,” Enzi said. “I do want to make sure that I have insurance. I want to make sure my employees have insurance.”
Norton applauded the senators for defending congressional health care, noting Vitter's effort has been focused on eliminating the government contribution to member and staffer plans. "If [Vitter] had been successful, the Congress would have been the only large employer that made no contribution to the health insurance premiums of its employees," Norton said.
Despite the setback Thursday, Vitter said in a statement that he will continue his investigation into congressional health care enrollment.
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