WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley today said he will offer an amendment during Senate debate on the health care reconciliation bill this week to apply the reform legislation to the President, Vice President, cabinet members and top White House staff.
“It’s pretty unbelieveable that the President and his closest advisors remain untouched by the reforms they pushed for the rest of the country. In other words, President Obama’s health care reform won’t apply to President Obama,” Grassley said. “Last December, the effort to apply any new law to administration political leaders was rejected by the Senate Majority Leader. But there’s no justification for the double standard, and I’ll continue to work to establish fairness.”
The Senate legislation passed last night by the House of Representatives includes an amendment Grassley sponsored and got adopted by the Finance Committee last fall to have members of Congress and their staffs get their health insurance through the same health insurance exchanges where health plans for the general public would be available. During the closed-door negotiations on the bill late last year, the Senate Majority Leader carved out Senate committee and leadership staff from this requirement.
Subsequently, Grassley and Senator Tom Coburn attempted to offer another amendment to restore the requirement during Senate debate on the health care bill, but the Senate Majority Leader would not let their amendment to fix this loophole even come up for a vote. In addition to Senate committee and leadership staff, the amendment Grassley and Coburn filed during the Senate debate would have made the President, the Vice President, top White House staff and cabinet members all get their health insurance through the newly created exchanges. It would not have applied to federal employees in the civil service.
Grassley said, “It’s only fair and logical that top administration officials, who fought so hard for passage of this overhaul of America’s health care system, experience it themselves. If it’s as good as promised, they’ll know it first-hand. If there are problems, they’ll be able to really understand them, as they should.”
Grassley said the motivation for his amendments is simple: public officials who make the laws or lead efforts to have laws changed should live under those laws.
“This is the same principle that motivated me to pursue legislation over 20 years ago to apply civil rights, labor and employment laws to Congress,” Grassley said. Before President Clinton signed into law Grassley’s long-sought Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, Congress had routinely exempted itself.
The Congressional Accountability Act made Congress subject to 12 laws, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Veteran’s Employment and Reemployment Rights at Chapter 43 of Title 38 of the U.S. Code, and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1989.
Today, Grassley is working to make sure Congress lives up to the same standards it imposes on others with legislation such as his Congressional Whistleblower Protection Act.