House Votes To Eliminate Congress Carve-Out From O’Care Repeal Bill

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., joined from left by, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks about getting past last week’s failure to pass a health care overhaul bill and rebuilding unity in the Republican Conference, at the Capitol,  in Washington, Tuesday, March 28, 2017.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Just a few hours before a scheduled vote on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the House voted 429-0 to strip out a provision in that legislation that would have exempted members of Congress and their staffers from some of the most radical changes to health care law.

“We firmly believe members of Congress should live by the same rules as everyone else. Period,” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) said Thursday on the House floor. “It’s only right. It’s only proper.”

Journalists in late April noticed and highlighted technical language in the American Health Care Act that shielded members of Congress from waivers of Obamacare’s protections on age rating, essential health benefits and community rating—meaning that they would retain those protections even if their constituents lost them.

“They planned to exempt themselves from Trumpcare until they got caught,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) accused Republicans from the House floor.

Some Republican lawmakers told TPM last week that they were not aware of the carve-out provision. Others tried to argue—incorrectly—that they would not be carved out because they are part of Washington D.C.’s marketplace, and that since D.C. is not a state the provision doesn’t apply. GOP leadership then argued that the carve-out was in the bill in order to comply with the Senate’s reconciliation rules and receive a fast-track, party-line vote, but Senate aides disputed this.

After voting to strip out the exemption language, House Republicans said they were ready to vote on the health care bill itself, saying they were pleased it would apply to themselves as well as the rest of the country.

“Most Americans know that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Rep. Pete Olsen (R-TX) said.