Cotton seeks block on Obamacare subsidies for Capitol Hill staff


WASHINGTON — Legislation by U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, would prevent the federal government from subsidizing health insurance costs for members of Congress and their staff.

Members of Congress and their staff are required under ObamaCare to purchase insurance through marketplace exchanges rather than have the federal government provide the benefit as it has in the past.

Last month, the Office of Personnel Management issued a rule that would allow the federal government to contribute to the cost of insurance premiums — drawing a backlash from some Republicans who oppose the Affordable Care Act.

Cotton said the bill he introduced Monday is needed to confront an unfair and unlawful regulation designed to benefit political insiders.

“It ensures that representatives, senators and their staff are subject to the same failing law and its disruptions as all Americans,” Cotton said in a statement announced the legislation.

Sens. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and David Vitter, R-La., announced two weeks ago that they would be introduce a bill to block subsidies for the president, vice president, lawmakers and political appointees. The bill would also eliminate special subsidies for congressional staff if it is greater than what is otherwise available to Americans seeking insurance through marketplace exchanges.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., introduced legislation on Monday that would block subsidies for members of Congress. Her bill has 15 co-sponsors, including Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock.

Cotton’s proposal, which was introduced without a co-sponsor, would go farther, blocking subsidies for legislative staff as well. His broader prohibition would likely be felt heaviest by junior staff.

Lawmakers and senior staff earn too much to qualify for tax credits and other subsidies provided under the Affordable Care Act to individuals earning up to a maximum of $43,000 or $92,000 for families. Legislative assistants and other junior staff typically earn less than those maximums.

Cotton also signed on Tuesday as a co-sponsor to legislation proposed by Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., that mirrors the legislation proposed by Enzi and Vitter.