Sources in the Senate tell me that, on orders from senior Senate leaders, the NRSC and DSCC, the two groups responsible for electing Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, have declared a truce over the Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”) exemption of Capitol Hill staff from one of the provisions of Obamacare.
In other words, Republican Leaders have agreed the NRSC will not use this issue to put Democrats in a difficult re-election position in 2014, because Republican leaders do not intend to fight it and don’t want a spotlight on them doing so.
Under rules promulgated by OPM, Capitol Hill staff and congressmen will be allowed to continue receiving an employer subsidies from the government.
The problem was rooted in the original text of the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) inserted a provision which said members of Congress and their aides must be covered by plans “created” by the law or “offered through an exchange.” Until now, OPM had not said if the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program could contribute premium payments toward plans on the exchange. If payments stopped, lawmakers and aides would have faced thousands of dollars in additional premium payments each year. Under the old system, the government contributed nearly 75 percent of premium payments.
The sources tell me Senators on both sides of the aisle are deeply, deeply worried about staff retention. While it would normally be an issue ripe for exploration by the GOP, Senate Republican leaders have agreed that they should let it go.
The sources are consistent with this little noticed press release from Louisiana Senator David Vitter in which he noted, “Congressional leaders were part of the private decision.”
Further, Vitter said, “And this behind-closed-doors deal, announced right after Congress is safely away from the crime scene on break, was fully supported by establishment Republicans.”
The irony is that Senate Republicans, including Senators Mitch McConnell, Lamar Alexander, and John Cornyn continue to claim they support repeal of Obamacare, but will oppose Senator Mike Lee’s effort to defund it through the continuing resolution and now are seemingly complicit in instructing the National Republican Senatorial Committee to not use the issue against Democrats in the 2014 elections.
No word on the NRCC and DCCC, but Republican and Democratic Leaders in the House of Representatives are known to share the same concerns with their Senate counterparts.