Republicans Block Vitter’s Obamacare Subpoena

Five GOP senators oppose Vitter’s effort, and he accuses them of wanting to “protect congressional perks.”

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) speaks during a news conference July 26, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
National Journal
April 23, 2015, 7:13 a.m.

Sen. Dav­id Vit­ter was sty­mied Thursday in his latest ef­fort to get an­swers on how mem­bers of Con­gress and staff get their health in­sur­ance through Obama­care. And it wasn’t just Demo­crats who blocked him—it was his fel­low Re­pub­lic­ans

Vit­ter has fiercely op­posed Con­gress mem­bers and staffers re­ceiv­ing their health in­sur­ance through Wash­ing­ton’s small-busi­ness ex­change, which grants them an em­ploy­er con­tri­bu­tion to their health care. Vit­ter wants the Small Busi­ness and En­tre­pren­eur­ship Com­mit­tee, which he chairs, to sub­poena doc­u­ments from the D.C. Health Be­ne­fit Ex­change Au­thor­ity, which over­sees the Dis­trict’s health mar­ket­place.

But for five com­mit­tee Re­pub­lic­ans, Vit­ter’s plan to sub­poena simply goes too far.

Thursday’s vote failed 5-to-14, with Re­pub­lic­an Sens. James Risch, Rand Paul, Deb Fisc­her, Kelly Ayotte, and Mike En­zi op­pos­ing the meas­ure. Their op­pos­i­tion clearly frus­trated the chair­man; a press re­lease from Vit­ter, after the tally, was head­lined: “Com­mit­tee Vote to Im­pede In­vest­ig­a­tion Dis­ap­point­ing, Typ­ic­al of In­sider Men­tal­ity to Pro­tect Con­gres­sion­al Perks.”

Vit­ter needed all 10 of the Re­pub­lic­ans on the pan­el to side with him in or­der to is­sue the sub­poena, which spe­cific­ally asks for nine un­re­dac­ted pages of ap­plic­a­tions that the Sen­ate and the House sub­mit­ted to the D.C. Health Be­ne­fit Ex­change Au­thor­ity to al­low mem­bers and staff to re­ceive health in­sur­ance through the small-busi­ness mar­ket­place.

“This isn’t the jur­is­dic­tion of this com­mit­tee,” Risch said. He’s wor­ried the sub­poena could de­tract from the main job of the com­mit­tee—to help small busi­nesses—and that it could turn in­to a pro­trac­ted leg­al fight.

En­zi cited fear of what would hap­pen to his em­ploy­ees’ health in­sur­ance if cov­er­age were to shift. “I think there needs to be a solu­tion,” he said, adding that the way he sees it, his of­fice is a small busi­ness.

“Each of us has our own budget,” he said. “Each of us has our own staff.”

But Vit­ter countered his fel­low Re­pub­lic­ans, say­ing the com­mit­tee’s goal is to be an ad­voc­ate for small busi­nesses—and he’s sure a sub­poena would work.

“Based on our com­mu­nic­a­tions, I’m com­pletely con­fid­ent that if we is­sue the sub­poena, we will get from them the nine pages un­re­dac­ted, which is the goal,” said Vit­ter, who has launched an in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to why Con­gress was des­ig­nated as a small busi­ness.

Ac­cord­ing to a seni­or GOP com­mit­tee aide, each Re­pub­lic­an, with the ex­cep­tion of Paul, ini­tially sup­por­ted the sub­poena ef­fort, but the aide wrote in an email that four of them flipped.

Yet, Re­pub­lic­ans have voted with Vit­ter in the past—and then de­cided they might not play by the rules. In Decem­ber, Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans un­an­im­ously passed a non­bind­ing party rule by voice vote that re­quired all of­fice, lead­er­ship, and com­mit­tee staff to re­ceive their health in­sur­ance on Wash­ing­ton’s small-busi­ness ex­change rather than through the fed­er­al pro­gram. Most com­mit­tee chairs were already do­ing so, but a few have not com­mit­ted to mak­ing the switch.

What We're Following See More »
AVOIDS SHUTDOWN WITH A FEW HOURS TO SPARE
Trump Signs Border Deal
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump signed a sweeping spending bill Friday afternoon, averting another partial government shutdown. The action came after Trump had declared a national emergency in a move designed to circumvent Congress and build additional barriers at the southern border, where he said the United States faces 'an invasion of our country.'"

Source:
REDIRECTS $8 BILLION
Trump Declares National Emergency
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

"President Donald Trump on Friday declared a state of emergency on the southern border and immediately direct $8 billion to construct or repair as many as 234 miles of a border barrier. The move — which is sure to invite vigorous legal challenges from activists and government officials — comes after Trump failed to get the $5.7 billion he was seeking from lawmakers. Instead, Trump agreed to sign a deal that included just $1.375 for border security."

Source:
COULD SOW DIVISION AMONG REPUBLICANS
House Will Condemn Emergency Declaration
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

"House Democrats are gearing up to pass a joint resolution disapproving of President Trump’s emergency declaration to build his U.S.-Mexico border wall, a move that will force Senate Republicans to vote on a contentious issue that divides their party. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Thursday evening in an interview with The Washington Post that the House would take up the resolution in the coming days or weeks. The measure is expected to easily clear the Democratic-led House, and because it would be privileged, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would be forced to put the resolution to a vote that he could lose."

Source:
MILITARY CONSTRUCTION, DRUG FORFEITURE FUND
Where Will the Emergency Money Come From?
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

"ABC News has learned the president plans to announce on Friday his intention to spend about $8 billion on the border wall with a mix of spending from Congressional appropriations approved Thursday night, executive action and an emergency declaration. A senior White House official familiar with the plan told ABC News that $1.375 billion would come from the spending bill Congress passed Thursday; $600 million would come from the Treasury Department's drug forfeiture fund; $2.5 billion would come from the Pentagon's drug interdiction program; and through an emergency declaration: $3.5 billion from the Pentagon's military construction budget."

Source:
TRUMP SAYS HE WILL SIGN
House Passes Funding Deal
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

"The House passed a massive border and budget bill that would avert a shutdown and keep the government funded through the end of September. The Senate passed the measure earlier Thursday. The bill provides $1.375 billion for fences, far short of the $5.7 billion President Trump had demanded to fund steel walls. But the president says he will sign the legislation, and instead seek to fund his border wall by declaring a national emergency."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login