By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON, Wisc. – In case you missed it:
Wisconsin’s senior U.S. senator is suing the Obama administration over the subsidies federal lawmakers and their staffs are expected to receive to offset the costs of their health care coverage.
Sen. Ron Johnson, leading a chorus of conservative voices, says the lawsuit is about bringing a sense of fairness to Obamacare. In short, congressional members shouldn’t get a pass while their constituents have to pay.
“Americans are justifiably outraged when members of Congress exempt themselves from the very laws they impose on everyone else. With the help of President Obama, that is exactly what Democrats have done once again,” Johnson, a Republican, said in a statement.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, or WILL, on behalf of Johnson, filed the federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of Wisconsin. The suit was announced on Monday at a press conference in the Senate chambers with Johnson, WILL President Rick Esenberg, and attorney Paul D. Clement, an adviser to the case.
An Obamacare provision requires lawmakers and their staffs to purchase insurance plans created by the law through the health care exchanges. But the Office of Personnel Management, at the urging of the Obama administration, has said it will continue to assist congressional members and their aides in subsidizing the costs of the plans, as is the case for other federal employees.
Johnson contends the provision gives Congress special treatment.
Under Obamacare, Americans who make less than $45,000 a year are eligible for health care subsidies. The annual salary for members of Congress: $175,000 per year, far outpacing the healthcare law’s earnings threshold.
Democrats, of course, blasted Johnson’s lawsuit. But perhaps the loudest criticism came from a fellow Republican, in Johnson’s own state congressional delegation.
U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, called the litigation an “unfortunate political stunt.”
“I am committed to repealing Obamacare, but the employer contribution he’s attacking is nothing more than a standard benefit that most private and all federal employees receive – including the President,” Sensenbrenner said in a statement.
If the lawsuit is successful, Sensenbrenner warned, Congress will lose some of its best staff and will be “staffed primarily by recent college graduates who are still on their parents’ insurance. This will make it even more difficult to fight the President and his older, more experienced staff. “
“Senator Johnson should spend his time legislating rather than litigating as our country is facing big problems that must be addressed by Congress – not the courts,” the congressman said. “All Republicans want to repeal Obamacare, but this politically motivated lawsuit only takes public attention away from how bad all of Obamacare really is and focuses it on a trivial issue. Fortunately, Senator Johnson’s suit is likely frivolous and will not achieve the result he’s seeking.”
Johnson fired back, saying he is “disappointed and puzzled” by Sensenbrenner’s disagreement on an issue that all but two congressional Republicans have supported – “ending the special treatment for members of Congress and their staffs under Obamacare.”
“By no means do I believe this issue is trivial, or my lawsuit to overturn this injustice is frivolous. This is an issue of basic fairness that I believe is worth fighting for,” Johnson said in a statement.
Contact M.D. Kittle at [email protected]