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October 01, 2013 12:35 PM Boehner’s Shameful Retreat on Employee Health Care

By Ed Kilgore

Well, you’d figure this would be Politico’s kind of day, and sure enough, there’s plenty of fun stuff to read in the Insider’s Daily this day. The latest is actually the product of a spiteful but highly appropriate leak to John Bresnahan, presumably from Harry Reid’s staff, of a host of emails from Boehner’s staff showing the Speaker heavily involved in the effort to shield Congress and congressional staff from the impact of Chuck Grassley’s amendment requiring them to purchase insurance from the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges, never designed for use by people working for large employers.

With the federal government nearing shutdown, House Speaker John Boehner stood on the House floor Monday and called on his colleagues to vote for a bill banning a “so-called exemption” that lawmakers and staffers receive for their health insurance.
“Why don’t we make sure that every American is treated just like we are?” Boehner asked, seeking to prohibit members of Congress and Capitol Hill aides from getting thousands of dollars in subsidies for their health insurance as they join Obamacare-mandated insurance exchanges.
Yet behind-the-scenes, Boehner and his aides worked for months with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and others, to save these very same, long-standing subsidies, according to documents and e-mails provided to POLITICO. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was also aware of these discussions, the documents show.
During a five-month period stretching from February to July, Boehner and his aides sought along with Reid’s office to solve what had become a big headache for both of them. They drafted and reviewed a possible legislative fix, as well as continued to push for an administrative one from the Office of Personnel Management.
Boehner aides insist there was never any intention to move legislation through the House to correct the problem.
Boehner and Reid, however, went so far as to ask to meet with President Barack Obama to lobby him personally for help — using a cover story in order to protect the secrecy of the discussions, according to these documents.

I won’t go through the whole story, which you can read yourself. But it’s painfully obvious Boehner got on the Vitter Amendment train, championing the denial of employer subsidies to employees forced into the Obamacare exchanges, at the point of a gun aimed at him by “defunding Obamacare” conservatives who decided weeks ago this was a “winning issue.” This isn’t just a embarrassing disclosure for Boehner, though it is that. It’s more evidence, if you need any, that the sudden claim of House Republicans that they’re just offering some ideas that the two parties should compromise on, and that Democrats have mysteriously decided to shut the government down instead of negotiating, is a complete crock. Boehner won’t work with House Democrats and can’t control 218 House Republicans, so he’s spinning madly and hoping the White House unilaterally makes the first move to bail him out. The facts, however, don’t make the Speaker a very sympathetic figure. It’s probably enough to make him want to cry.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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