Morning Action: Will Obamacare Affect Members of Congress and Their Staff?

OBAMACARE. Some reports indicate the members of Congress and their staff will not have to enter into the Obamacare exchanges like everyone else:

Lawmakers and staff can breathe easy — their health care tab is not going to soar next year.

The Office of Personnel Management, under heavy pressure from Capitol Hill, will issue a ruling that says the government can continue to make a contribution to the health care premiums of members of Congress and their aides, according to several Hill sources.

A White House official confirmed the deal and said the proposed regulations will be issued next week.

However, Heritage explains that President Obama, members of Congress and their staff will lose their current health insurance unless Congress passes another law to preserve its own coverage:

For the past few months, members of Congress and their staffs have been discussing behind closed doors the worrying proposition that they will be forced off their popular health insurance program and onto the federal insurance exchanges set up under Obamacare.

Those concerns reached a fevered pitch this week as President Obama, while making a rare visit to Capitol Hill, assured lawmakers that they and their staffs wouldn’t be foisted onto the same health exchange as millions of Americans. Then late last night, news broke that Obama had “solved” the problem, although no details were available.

Obama and many in Congress are hoping that the Office of Personnel Management can somehow find a way to legally continue paying for members’ health benefits after they lose their current Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) coverage and instead have to get coverage through the new exchanges.

But not so fast, say two Heritage Foundation health scholars and a former general counsel of the OPM. The three health benefit experts scoured Obamacare’s rules, along with other relevant statutes, and found nothing in the law that gives OPM the authority to pay the government’ contributions to any health plan that is outside of the FEHBP.

In other words, members of Congress and their staff will lose the health insurance they like—breaking a big promise from Obama—unless Congress passes another law to preserve its own current coverage. That’s something they have so far been unwilling to do for their constituents, millions of whom are also facing the prospect of losing their current coverage.

Some Senate Republicans will continue to push for a ‘permanent delay’ of Obamacare during the recess:

This week, that disagreement came into sharp focus when a small group of Republican senators, led by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, demanded that the full repeal of “Obamacare” be linked to a spending bill needed to keep the government open after the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year. If the bill doesn’t pass, the government will shut down.

The Senate Republican conference’s trifold recess messaging brochure, a copy of which was provided to the Washington Examiner by a Senate Republican aide, doesn’t take sides in that debate. Instead, it simply suggests that lawmakers “permanently delay Obamacare for ALL Americans,” with no mention of the spending bill or the word “repeal.”


It’s a vague prescription that likely won’t offend Lee or GOP opponents of his proposal — and there were many, including Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who published a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service showing that shutting down the government would not halt the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

JOBS. The July jobs report shows jobs growth is still stubbornly slow and economic growth remains sluggish:

The trend of sluggish economic growth continued Friday, as federal economists reported that the economy added 162,000 jobs in July while the unemployment rate edged down from 7.6 percent to 7.4 percent.

The jobs count, which narrowly missed analyst expectations, follows Wednesday’s dour news that the economy grew by only 1.7 percent in the second quarter. Federal economists also reduced their estimate for first quarter growth down to 1.1 percent.

But the stubbornly slow job growth left 11.5 million people unemployed, with another 8.2 million part-time employees unsuccessfully looking to add more hours to their work week. Among the unemployed, 4.2 million have been unsuccessfully seeking work for 6 months or more.

UNIONS.  They are desperately trying to halt a decline in membership:

Unions are helping non-union fast food workers around the country hold strikes to protest low wages and poor working conditions. They are trying to organize home day care workers, university graduate students and even newly legalized marijuana dealers. Members of a “shadow union” at Wal-Mart hold regular protests at the giant retailer, which long has been resistant to organizing.

Labor leaders say unions must create new models and new ways to represent workers to reverse a steady slide in the union ranks. Those efforts have taken on greater urgency since the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported earlier this year that union membership had declined to just 11.3 percent of the workforce – its lowest point in nearly a century.

Heritage’s James Sherk has explained why union membership is on the decline:

Would you want to work for an employer who ignores your contributions? What about one who only promotes on seniority? The answer to these questions explains why union membership keeps falling: unions have not adapted to the modern workplace.

In the past unions offset such concerns by negotiating higher pay for everyone. In today’s competitive economy, they no longer can. If unions raise labor costs, consumers can shop elsewhere. Unions that insist on uncompetitive wages wind up like Hostess’s Bakery Union – with unemployed union members. Consequently, studies find unions do not raise pay at most newly organized companies.

Without being able to offer higher pay, unions have to sell workers on the value of collective bargaining itself. But that has proven difficult. The government already requires employers to provide employment protections like safety standards protections and overtime rates. Polls show that most workers feel their employer respects them. Unsurprisingly, polls also show that only one in 10 non- union workers want to join a union.

AMNESTY.  Tripp Baird explains both the legislative process for going to conference and the dangers of skipping conference with the Senate-passed amnesty bill.  He also lays out the easiest path the amnesty that some lawmakers are liable to take:

The easiest path to amnesty would be to negotiate outside the confines of a formal conference.  The House has all the pieces of a comprehensive bill in the committees of jurisdiction:  Michael McCaul’s (R-TX) border security bill; Trey Gowdy’s (R-SC) border and interior enforcement bill; Darrel Issa’s (R-CA) visa bill;  Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) E-Verify bill; Bob Goodlatte’s (R-VA) Ag Jobs bill; and Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) KIDS Act.  Behind closed doors, a handful of pro-amnesty lawmakers from the House and Senate would cobble together a compromise between these bills and the Senate-passed amnesty.  The new bill would be sent to the House and Senate floors for approval.



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