March 25,2010

Grassley introduces free-standing bill to apply health reforms to White House and all of Congress

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley today introduced a bill to apply the newhealth care law to the President, Vice President, cabinet members, top White House staff, and thecongressional staff who drafted the measure enacted this week.

Grassley amendments to establish this accountability in Congress and the administrationhave twice been rejected, first last December and again this week. “As a result, President Obamawill not have to live under the Obama health care reforms, and neither will the congressionalstaff who helped to write the overhaul,” Grassley said. “The message to the people at thegrassroots is that it’s good enough for you, but not for us.”

Congress could act to pass Grassley’s “Health Reform Accountability Act” at any time.The new health care law includes an amendment Grassley sponsored and got adopted bythe Finance Committee last September to have members of Congress and their staffs get theirhealth insurance through the same health insurance exchanges where health plans for the generalpublic would be available. During subsequent closed-door work on a Senate health care bill,Senate committee and leadership staffs were removed from this requirement.

In December, Grassley and Senator Tom Coburn attempted to offer a floor amendment torestore the requirement, but the Senate Majority Leader would not let their amendment come upfor a vote. In addition to Senate committee and leadership staff, the amendment Grassley andCoburn filed during the Senate debate would have made the President, the Vice President, topWhite House staff and cabinet members all get their health insurance through the newly createdexchanges. It would not have applied to federal employees in the civil service.

Legislative language to restore Grassley’s congressional coverage amendment to thecomprehensive way it was approved by the Finance Committee also was not included in the finalmanager’s amendment to the health care reform bill passed by the Senate on Christmas Eve.And, this week, the Senate voted to defeat Grassley’s coverage amendment to the health-carereconciliation bill.

Grassley said, “It’s only fair and logical that administration leaders and congressionalstaff, who fought so hard to overhaul of America’s health care system, experience it themselves.If the reforms are as good as promised, then they’ll know it first-hand. If there are problems,public officials will be in a position to really understand the problems, as they should.”Grassley said the motivation for his initiative is simple: public officials who make thelaws or lead efforts to have laws changed should live under those laws. “It’s the same principlethat motivated me to pursue legislation over 20 years ago to apply civil rights, labor andemployment laws to Congress,” Grassley said.

Before President Clinton signed into law Grassley’s long-sought CongressionalAccountability Act of 1995, Congress had routinely exempted itself. The CongressionalAccountability Act made Congress subject to 12 laws, including the Age Discrimination inEmployment Act of 1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Title VII of the CivilRights Act of 1964, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988, the Fair Labor StandardsAct of 1938, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, the Federal Service Labor-ManagementRelations Statute, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the Rehabilitation Act of1973, the Veteran’s Employment and Reemployment Rights at Chapter 43 of Title 38 of the U.S.Code, and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1989.

Grassley also is working to make sure Congress lives up to the same standards it imposeson others with legislation such as his Congressional Whistleblower Protection Act.As it stands, thanks to Grassley’s Finance Committee passed amendment, members ofCongress and their personal staffs will be required to obtain their health insurance coveragethrough the newly created health care exchanges. Members and personal staffs will only be ableto use their employer contribution to buy health care coverage in the exchange. Individuals willreceive an age-adjusted contribution from the Office of Personnel Management with which topurchase a plan.

However, because the Senate rejected the amendment offered by Grassley last Decemberand this week, committee and leadership staff in Congress, as well as the President, VicePresident, the President’s cabinet and White House staff, will continue to access the FederalEmployees Health Benefit Program.

Yesterday, the White House announced that the President planned to participate in thehealth insurance exchanges that the reform law will begin in 2014. “This is effectively anendorsement of my legislation to make sure political leaders live under the laws they pass foreveryone else, and I appreciate it,” Grassley said. “The principle shouldn’t be voluntary forpolitical leaders, though.”