David Vitter Wants to Subpoena Obamacare Documents. Do Republicans Have His Back?

He wants info on why Congress is considered a “small business” for health insurance purposes.

US Senator David Vitter (L) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, September 30, 2013. Senator Vitter penned an amendment to nix subsidies for the health care of congressional staffers. 
National Journal
April 21, 2015, 1:20 p.m.

Sen. Dav­id Vit­ter wants an­swers on Obama­care. On Thursday, he’ll learn if the Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers of the com­mit­tee he chairs are be­hind him.

The sen­at­or from Louisi­ana has been lead­ing a cru­sade to un­cov­er why mem­bers of Con­gress and their staffers re­ceive their health in­sur­ance on D.C.’s small busi­ness ex­change—and the em­ploy­er con­tri­bu­tion that goes along with that des­ig­na­tion—rather than the in­di­vidu­al mar­ket­place. So Vit­ter’s Small Busi­ness and En­tre­pren­eur­ship Com­mit­tee will vote on wheth­er to sub­poena doc­u­ments sent to the D.C. Health Be­ne­fit Ex­change Au­thor­ity (which over­sees the Dis­trict’s health mar­ket­place).

The pan­el roster has 10 Re­pub­lic­ans and nine Demo­crats, so Vit­ter will likely need every Re­pub­lic­an on his side to ap­prove the sub­poena.

But on Tues­day, Sens. Deb Fisc­her and Kelly Ayotte didn’t say how they would vote; they said they wer­en’t con­fid­ent there was go­ing to be a vote on the sub­poena and didn’t com­ment on wheth­er they would sup­port Vit­ter’s en­deavor. And Sen. James Risch wouldn’t defin­it­ively say how he planned to vote, as he has work to do to catch up to speed be­fore he takes a po­s­i­tion.

A news re­lease from the com­mit­tee stated that a vote will oc­cur Thursday and that “most Com­mit­tee Re­pub­lic­ans are com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing Vit­ter’s re­quest to sub­poena the doc­u­ments.” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the pan­el’s top Demo­crat, op­poses the sub­poena, ac­cord­ing to her press sec­ret­ary, Vivek Kem­baiy­an.

How Con­gress re­ceives its health care has been a thorny is­sue dat­ing back to the Af­ford­able Care Act’s ne­go­ti­ations. Demo­crats say Con­gress is a large em­ploy­er, and thus should provide its em­ploy­ees with health cov­er­age, as the law man­dates large com­pan­ies must do.

On the oth­er side of the aisle, Re­pub­lic­ans ar­gue that Con­gress should live with­in the same health sys­tem it im­poses on oth­ers and should re­ceive in­sur­ance through the on­line ex­changes. Vit­ter has taken up this cause—and taken it a step fur­ther: Con­gress isn’t a small busi­ness, he says, and staffers and mem­bers shouldn’t be on the small busi­ness ex­change, which al­lows them to re­ceive em­ploy­er con­tri­bu­tions to­ward their health in­sur­ance.

“Con­gress should ab­so­lutely not be ex­empt from liv­ing un­der Obama­care just like the mil­lions of Amer­ic­ans who don’t get a spe­cial tax­pay­er fun­ded sub­sidy. The only way Con­gress was able to ex­empt it­self from Obama­care was by cre­at­ing a loop­hole and des­ig­nat­ing it­self as a ‘Small Busi­ness,’ ” Vit­ter said in a state­ment. “Thursday’s vote is an op­por­tun­ity for mem­bers of Con­gress to pub­licly stand for gov­ern­ment trans­par­ency and ac­count­ab­il­ity, tak­ing one step closer to liv­ing un­der Obama­care—the same as the rest of Amer­ica, not an elite rul­ing class. Is­su­ing this sub­poena will al­low us to find out who is re­spons­ible for al­low­ing Con­gress to re­ceive a spe­cial tax­pay­er-fun­ded sub­sidy on Obama­care, so we can fix this—and ul­ti­mately, end the spe­cial ex­emp­tion.”

The sub­poena 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. More than 13,700 Con­gress mem­bers, staffers, and fam­ily mem­bers had signed up for Wash­ing­ton’s small busi­ness ex­change as of Feb. 8.

In Decem­ber, Vit­ter promp­ted Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans to pass a non­bind­ing party rule re­quir­ing all com­mit­tee, of­fice, and lead­er­ship staff to re­ceive their health in­sur­ance through the D.C. mar­ket­place. However, not all Re­pub­lic­an com­mit­tee chairs plan to fol­low along.

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