Even though Republicans are eager to get rid of Obamacare, many also want to allow members of Congress and their staffs to continue receiving Obamacare-generated benefits.
Not Rep. Robert Pittenger of North Carolina.
Democrats say Pittenger’s stance is a “last-minute reversal.” Pittenger says that’s nonsense.
Pittenger, R-Charlotte, is one of several Republicans who said Thursday that they wanted to strip a controversial provision that would exempt Congress members from key portions of the latest Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare.
It was not a sudden conversion, he maintained. He noted that he himself had dropped the congressional health plan starting with the 2014 plan year.
“I have never received an Obamacare subsidy,” he said.
But he said, “My staff receives their insurance through the D.C. exchange.” The Obamacare law set up the exchanges, marketplaces where consumers shop for coverage.
Jamie Bowers, a Pittenger spokesman, said the congressman had long been opposed to lawmakers receiving special treatment under Obamacare.
Still, Democrats see an opportunity for political gain. They questioned why Pittenger waited until Thursday to offer his proposal, and they are reminding voters that if the provision isn’t stripped, he’s still likely to vote for the bill.
Pittenger is one of 30 Republicans whom the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced that it’s targeting in digital ads that are to appear on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
DCCC officials accused House Republicans on Wednesday of being “morally bankrupt” for considering an Obamacare repeal plan negotiated by Reps. Mark Meadows, the North Carolinian who chairs the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and Tom MacArthur, R-N.C., who chairs the moderate Tuesday Group.
“Republican members of Congress are exempting themselves from the punishment they are willing to inflict on their constituents,” said Cole Leiter, a DCCC spokesman. “This digital ad campaign will educate voters in targeted districts about this morally bankrupt congressional carveout.”
Thursday, Pittenger signed on to a bill written by Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., that would strike the congressional exemption from the GOP’s American Health Care Act. Bowers said Pittenger signed on to the bill Thursday because that was when it had become available.
“We don’t yet have a final version of the American Health Care Act, and we are working to remove the exemption before passage,” Pittenger said in a statement Thursday.
If the exemption remains in the bill, Pittenger, McSally and their allies are ready to move on their own to get rid of it.
Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress and the White House, have vowed to end Obamacare. But they have been unsuccessful so far, largely because of disagreements between conservative and centrist Republicans.
Meadows and MacArthur negotiated a modified plan that would allow states to apply for waivers that would let them opt out of Obamacare requirements to cover a list of “essential benefits,” including maternity care and mental health treatment.
States also could obtain waivers to permit insurers to charge customers more if they are older or have pre-existing medical conditions.
Leiter said Pittenger co-sponsoring McSally’s bill was nothing more than political cover after Pittenger was part of a group of Republicans who created a set of principles for replacing President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which barred insurers from refusing to cover people because of pre-existing conditions.
“If there’s a shred of credit for Congressman Pittenger’s last-minute reversal to stop members of Congress from receiving special treatment, it’s due to the North Carolinians who shared their stories and told him that his support for the Republican plan is unacceptable,” Leiter said.