The House first tried to defund ObamaCare. Then, it tried to delay the whole law and then just the individual mandate. In the final hours before the midnight deadline, the House ended with a simple proposal. It would agree to fund the government, if the Senate agreed to scrap the special subsidies lawmakers and staff receive to purchase health insurance. The final House proposal only effected people on Capitol Hill. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) said, effectively, we’ll shut down the government to keep our subsidies.
When ObamaCare was passed in 2010, an amendment was added by Sen. Chuck Grassley requiring members of Congress and their staffs to enroll in the ObamaCare exchanges. The federal government currently covers over 70% of health insurance premiums for Hill staff, but would no longer be able to do so through the exchanges. The end result is that members and staff would have to pick up the costs of their insurance premiums themselves.
The Obama Administration issued a rule earlier this year that effectively waived this. The federal government could still pick up 70% of the premium costs for members and their staffs. It is this special exemption that LA Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has focused on repealing.
The final proposal on keeping the government open from the House removed this special Congressional exemption. Members and staff would no longer receive special subsidies from the federal government to purchase health insurance. The proposal would have also suspended, for one year, penalties levied on individuals who don’t have health insurance. This is similar to the waiver granted by the Obama Administration to employers earlier this year.
The Senate, however, rejected both provisions. Had it opted to eliminate its own special subsidies, the government would be open today. Preserving its own platinum health insurance coverage drove the Senate to close the government.
The media will report that the House GOP wanted ambiguous “changes” to ObamaCare. While that was true, in the end, it simply asked to eliminate a special privilege afforded to lawmakers and their staff. Even that was too much for Harry Reid.