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The 'Vitter Amendment' Isn't Going Away | Commentary

I get it. My legislation to end Washington’s Obamacare exemption or subsidy doesn’t make me popular in Washington. But if you think it’s going away, I have news for you: There’s only one way to make that happen, and that’s to pass it.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has gone to enormous lengths to block out any vote on my proposal. Given that, I figured he at least read it — particularly since it’s four whole pages long. But apparently he hasn’t. (Maybe we have to pass it in order for him to understand what’s in it?)

Reid proved he hadn’t read it when he discussed it on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown” recently. He said it would completely eliminate health care for Congress. Really, Harry? That’s pretty wild and desperate spin, even for a politician.

My legislation would simply ensure that we do what the Obamacare statute actually says — make all members of Congress and staff go to the Obamacare exchanges for their health care with no mention of a special, ultra-generous taxpayer-funded subsidy. It would also expand that same rule to President Barack Obama, his Cabinet and top White House officials.

The point is simple: Washington should have to experience Obamacare just like millions of Americans do. And millions have been forced onto the Obamacare exchanges against their will with no special deal or unique, ultra-generous subsidy. This has happened to them often after they were forced off of coverage that they had been promised repeatedly they could keep, after they lost their trusted doctor, and with a big price hike attached to the new alternatives.

While the Obamacare statute actually provided for equal treatment of Congress in clear English, Obama came to the rescue by executive edict through a special rule, which he personally was involved in crafting at the behest of congressional leaders.

That illegal rule allows members of Congress to exempt much or all of their staff from going to the exchanges by labeling them “non-official.” (That’s a pretty neat trick since their salaries, office space and office equipment are all funded by the taxpayer for official purposes.) And those staff and members who do go to the exchanges get a huge taxpayer-funded subsidy unavailable to all other Americans at that income level — about $5,000 for single workers and $10,000 for families. To be clear, I’ve refused any subsidy for myself or my family.

Make no mistake about it — this exemption and subsidy is an insider deal, cooked up to take the sting out of Obamacare for the Washington elite while our constituents suffer the full-body blow.

But don’t worry — I won’t let my amendment fall to the wayside. I plan to fight for this vote until we get one. We must not let the Washington exemption or subsidy stand, for two very important reasons. First, the first rule of American democracy should be that what Washington passes on America it should have to under itself — no special exemption, special subsidy, special deal or special treatment. Second, there’s a very practical consideration. Washington should have to eat its own cooking. Because the sooner it does, the sooner that cooking will improve dramatically.

At a minimum voters deserve to know — and before the election — the names of the Washington insiders who voted to protect themselves from Obamacare but not their constituents. That’s important too. Because sometimes you have to fire much of the kitchen staff to get the cooking right.

Sen. David Vitter is a Republican from Louisiana.

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