Last night Politico reported that congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), have been holding discussions to exempt congressional staffers -- and members -- from the onerous costs of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. There is widespread fear that thousands of dollars in new health care costs will trigger a massive brain drain of staffers, particularly those in modest positions:
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said if [the Office of Personnel Management] decides that the federal government doesn’t pick up “the 75 percent that they have been, then put yourself in the position of a lot of entry-level staff people who make $25,000 a year, and all of a sudden, they have a $7,000 a year health care tab? That would be devastating.”
That would be enough irony for one day in D.C., but compare the following passages. From last night’s piece:
When asked about the high-level bipartisan talks, Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, said: “The speaker’s objective is to spare the entire country from the ravages of the president’s health care law. He is approached daily by American citizens, including members of Congress and staff, who want to be freed from its mandates. If the speaker has the opportunity to save anyone from Obamacare, he will.”
Late this morning Politico followed up: “John Boehner hits Dems on proposed Obamacare fix.”
“The fact that Democratic leaders want to opt themselves out of the Obamacare exchanges shows that Sen. Baucus isn’t the only one who realizes the president’s health care law is a ‘train wreck,’” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.
“The speaker would like to see resolution of this problem, along with the other nightmares created by Washington Democrats’ health law, which is why he supports full repeal,” Steel added. “In the meantime, it is Democrats’ problem to solve. He will not sneak any language into bills to solve it for them — and the Democratic leadership knows that.”
Did they know it last night? Perhaps, but this stance could be interpreted as a naked reversal. Boehner was hitherto a key figure in the talks. It is difficult to conceive that his office would allow Reid to reframe this effort as an attempt "to ensure all Americans access to affordable health insurance." I defer to the judgment of my readership.
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