The “height of Washington arrogance” or business as usual?
More than 100 staff members appointed by three Minnesota congressmen who serve as chairman or ranking member on powerful House committees appear to be exempt from a key requirement in the controversial health care reform bill recently passed by Congress and signed into law.
According to a Freedom Foundation of Minnesota (FFM) review of the state congressional delegation’s committee assignments, it appears that 115 committee staff of Congressmen James Oberstar, Collin Peterson and John Kline might be able to opt out of the requirement to purchase their health coverage through new state-run insurance exchanges.
“Forcing millions of Americans into government-run exchanges while exempting high-level staffers is the height of Washington arrogance,” Congressman John Kline told FFM. “If it’s good enough for Americans on Main Street, it ought to be good enough for Democrats’ favored staff members.”
While members of Congress and their personal office staff must participate in state insurance exchanges under the new health care reform law, language tucked away in Section 1312 of the 2,076 page bill appears to let hundreds of committee and leadership staff in the House and Senate off the hook and keep their current federal coverage.
A Congressional Research Service analysis obtained by FFM and distributed to Members of Congress and staff indicates that appears to be the case. The 13 page document titled “The Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act, and its Potential Impact on Members of Congress and Congressional Staff” says the bill’s vague wording apparently leaves out committee staff and party leaders’ staff, as well as other capitol employees. The bottom line: the committee and political staff in the House and Senate who crafted the health care reform legislation can evidently keep their personal health care plans.
Eighteen-term Congressman Oberstar, one of the most powerful committee chairmen in the House and supporter of the health care reform bill, has more committee staff exempted than Peterson and Kline combined.
· Cong. James Oberstar (D), Chairman, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee–59 Democrat committee staff.
· Cong. Collin Peterson (D), Chairman, House Agriculture Committee–33 Democrat committee staff.
· Cong. John Kline (R), Ranking Member, House Education and Labor Committee–23 Republican committee staff.
Kline, who voted against the health care reform bill, has co-sponsored legislation to repeal the loophole, as well as the overall enabling legislation.“I’ll fight to eliminate this outrageous carve-out and ensure no member or congressional staffer gets a better deal than the American people,” Kline said in a statement.
Neither Oberstar nor Peterson responded to an FFM inquiry on whether they believe the exemption represents a double standard or if they favor repealing the loophole and requiring committee staff to get coverage through state-run exchanges the sameas their constituents.
Tips, comments or suggestions? Contact Tom Steward, FFM Investigative Director. 612-354-2192.