Ron Johnson – I’m Suing Over ObamaCare Exemptions for Congress

By – Ron Johnson

On Monday, Jan. 6, I am filing suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin to make Congress live by the letter of the health-care law it imposed on the rest of America. By arranging for me and other members of Congress and their staffs to receive benefits intentionally ruled out by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the administration has exceeded its legal authority.

The president and his congressional supporters have also broken their promise to the American people that ObamaCare was going to be so good that they would participate in it just like everyone else. In truth, many members of Congress feel entitled to an exemption from the harsh realities of the law they helped jam down Americans’ throats in 2010. Unlike millions of their countrymen who have lost coverage and must now purchase insurance through an exchange, members and their staffs will receive an employer contribution to help pay for their new plans.

It is clear that this special treatment, via a ruling by the president’s Office of Personnel Management, was deliberately excluded in the law. During the drafting, debate and passage of ObamaCare, the issue of how the law should affect members of Congress and their staffs was repeatedly addressed. Even a cursory reading of the legislative history clearly shows the intent of Congress was to ensure that members and staff would no longer be eligible for their current coverage under the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan.

The law states that as of Jan. 1, 2014, the only health-insurance plans that members of Congress and their staffs can be offered by the federal government are plans “created under” ObamaCare or “offered through an Exchange” established under ObamaCare.

Furthermore, allowing the federal government to make an employer contribution to help pay for insurance coverage was explicitly considered, debated and rejected. In doing so, Congress established that the only subsidy available to them would be the same income-based subsidy available to every other eligible American accessing insurance through an exchange. This was the confidence-building covenant supporters of the law made to reassure skeptics that ObamaCare would live up to its billing. They wanted to appear eager to avail themselves of the law’s benefits and be more than willing to subject themselves to the exact same rules, regulations and requirements as their constituents.

Eager, that is, until they began to understand what they had actually done to themselves. For instance, by agreeing to go through an exchange they cut themselves off from the option of paying for health care with pretax dollars, the way many Americans will continue to do through employer-supplied plans. That’s when they went running to President Obama for relief. The president supplied it via the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which issued a convoluted ruling in October 2013 that ignores the clear intent and language of the law. After groping for a pretext, OPM essentially declared the federal government a small employer—magically qualifying members of Congress for coverage through a Small Business Health Options Program, exchanges where employers can buy insurance for their employees.

Neat trick, huh? Except that in issuing the ruling, OPM exceeded its statutory jurisdiction and legal authority. In directing OPM to do so, President Obama once again chose political expediency instead of faithfully executing the law—even one of his own making. If the president wants to change the law, he needs to come to Congress to have them change it with legislation, not by presidential fiat or decree.

The legal basis for our lawsuit (which I will file with a staff member, Brooke Ericson, as the other plaintiff) includes the fact that the OPM ruling forces me, as a member of Congress, to engage in activity that I believe violates the law. It also potentially alienates members of Congress from their constituents, since those constituents are witnessing members of Congress blatantly giving themselves and their staff special treatment.

Republicans have tried to overturn this special treatment with legislation that was passed by the House on Sept. 29, but blocked in the Senate. Amendments have also been offered to Senate bills, but Majority Leader Harry Reid refuses to allow a vote on any of them.

I believe that I have not only legal standing but an obligation to go to court to overturn this unlawful executive overreach, end the injustice, and provide a long overdue check on an executive that recognizes fewer and fewer constitutional restraints.

Sen. Johnson is a Republican from Wisconsin.

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Lyle Brittingham
8 years ago

Just short and sweet they should. ALL BE fired they ALL play on the fence of selfishness and there is ABSOLUTELY no one in any part of Washington that gives a rats ass about the AVERAGE person as long as they themselves are covered or gaining when half the country is out of work and looking everything and we send help of any sort out of this so called FREE country and you guys sit blaming dem or. Rep or cons or independent there ALL GUILTY BUT THIS COUNTRY IS TO SCREWED up to stand up to any of them let alone ONE if I was more educated and up on everything ide argue more but its simple they are all covering there own assets and ours (the countries) are and will swing for there GREED

Cynthia Hotchkiss
8 years ago

My problem is with the state of Indiana. I have been shoved from one person to another just trying to get on insurance. I am low income (SSI) . When going to the healthcare web site I am told I qualify or Medicaid to apply with my state. I questioned this by calling the main FSSA office and was told yes this is true to fill out the papers and apply, did ws denied, told to go to the government web site again, did came up Medicaid again, so I called to talk to someone. This lady was very Pleasanton tried to get my application through with the same answers I had gotten. Now, I have written letters to the White House and Mike Pence who just had the FSSA call me saying I filed a complaint and advised me to contact an insurance navigator who told me I fall in a gap here and there is not an affordable policy out there for me. Now, this process started in Oct. with the HIP program as I had been on the list or this program about six years, they said to resubmit all needed paperwork on Oct 15th, I did and was told the list was gone now and no slots were available on he program for me, to contact the market place. This was when the problems were in full swing so my move was to a navigator first and he tried and told me I qualified for the Medicaid, at which point I contacted the main office and was told to submit the application and ape rework which was denied because I am not disabled, or have a minor child. Income wise I would but Indiana does not accept that. So I have at this point made about 10 phone calls and written 3 letters, plus written comments like this to get help. With $871 a month income I am lost. Oh I forgot the attempt I made to find out the subsidized low income amount I could get, at which point before I even finished reading the information an insurance agent called and said Medicaid is what I qualify for and Indiana has to provide it, according to laws of the extending of Medicaid voted on. He said not o,apply yet to keep after the state. I have no idea what is next, but I soon will turn 64 so Medicare s comming soon, but I do not want to break the laws by not doing what is required. Any suggestions?

Marco B.
8 years ago

I think that Paul E. asks some valid questions that need to be answered not just by Ron Johnson, but by every other member of Congress that disagrees with the obamacare exemptions for them and their staffs, before I jump on the Ron Johnson bandwagon. Somebody needs to stand up for the American people and make damn sure that Congress knows that when ANYONE, no matter WHO they are and what position they hold, breaks the LAW OF THE LAND, they are a CRIMINAL, and should be PUNISHED for their act! Big government progressives all think they are ABOVE the law and can enact any legislation they deem necessary to benefit themselves, not the people they were ELECTED to serve, AS THE CONSTITUTION STATES! I would love to hear the answers Mr. Johnson and his followers have for Paul E.’s questions.

8 years ago
Reply to  Marco B.

I agree. Let’s hope we all will retain this indignation after the Republicans/Conservatuves take back control & demand better if our elected officials in the future.

8 years ago

Another act of empty republican political theater.

Imagine if tea party republicans had used all the time they’ve spent pouting and voting against (43 times since 2010) the ACA to help their constituents by voting for job bills, we wouldn’t be debating the unemployment compensation extension in DC now.

8 years ago
Reply to  McGillicutty

What job bills? There have been none that were not strictly pay back for political cronies which did not produce any long term jobs. (Millions of dollars down the drain) & nothing to show for it Reid has only allowed 4 Republican bills to reach the floor in the Senate in the last 6 months. Everything he does is strictly for political tactics. It is unforgivable that policies are being made based just on politics. Harry Reid, Obama, Nancy Pelosi & all Democrats care nothing about what happens to this country. They care only about control & power. Free enterprise is the only thing that is going to make jobs. Taxes being imposed under Obamacare & over regulation is preventing jobs from being created.

8 years ago
Reply to  HAM


Don’t waste your time trying to have a rational discussion with a Democrat troll. All he’s doing is trying to provoke people by repeating the inane talking points he’s heard on either MS-NBC, NPR or whatever progressive web sites he uses for “news”. Nothing you’re saying to him is going to get through. If you ignore him, he’ll eventually get bored and simply go away to bother people on other conservative sites.

He does however serve one valuable lesson for everyone here. He appears to be a fairly typical example of a rabid Obama supporter. He speaks using Democrat talking points. If one set of talking points doesn’t work, he’ll try another and then another. So for those here who keep suggesting that eventually when things will get so bad that “people will suddenly wake up”, this should disabuse them of that fantasy.

8 years ago
Reply to  PaulE

I know PaulE. Thanks.

Pete Hughes
8 years ago

Hopefully you are serious..hopefully you won’t sell out.If the offer what you really want..Don’t trust any of you…
Snakes!!! Back stabbed. Lowest people on earth..There is a special place in hell.just for you people…

8 years ago

Here’s a few questions I have for Ron Johnson, before everyone jumps to the conclusion that he’s doing some great thing:

You correctly conclude that the exemption granted Congress and their staffs is both un-Constitutional and illegal under the law. Bravo! So while your lawsuit is perfectly fine to pursue through the court system, why are you and every other Republican member of Congress accepting this exemption? After all, there is nothing to prevent you and every other Republican member of Congress, along with their staffs, from saying “We will be enduring the same lower quality of health care and the higher costs associated with Obamacare as everyone else. We will do so until this law is repealed. Period.” Now that would be taking a true stand on principle!

I get why the Democrats in Congress want the exemption so badly. They know what Obamacare is and they certainly don’t want to experience what they’re putting the rest of the country through. Progressives are good at telling other people how to live their lives, but they rarely agree to the same set of rules for themselves. They are, at least in their own minds, above the “common man” and deserve far better for their excellent stewardship of the country. The Republicans on the other hand, say they stand for the Constitution and the rule of law.

After all, no one is forcing any member of Congress or their staffs to accept this illegal and un-Constitutional exemption. You’re free to decline this exemption at any time. You and the other members of Congress clearly don’t meet the criteria of “small business” or “consultants”. You are regular employees of the federal government for God’s sake!.That OPM scrambled to make-up a ludicrous definition of what members of Congress and their staffs are, all simply to justify an exemption and taxpayer-funded subsidies under Obamacare, doesn’t mean you have to accept them.

Please don’t say you and other Republican members of Congress went along for the sake of your staffs. That they “couldn’t afford it” and would have to leave their jobs. That would be insulting our intelligence. Staff members of Congress average around a $100,000 a year. Some make well north of $150,000 a year. If the “average Joe or Jane”, who makes considerably less that that, is being steamrolled into having to sign up for Obamacare, because their existing plans have been canceled, then members of Congress and their staffs can bite the bullet too. If anything, it would provide a personal incentive for members of Congress to work even harder towards repealing this law. That is if and when the Republicans ever manage to get veto-proof majorities in both houses of Congress.

The American people want to see real leadership from their representatives in Washington, not merely gamesmanship around re-election time. It’s time for every member of Congress to prove to the American people that they can not only talk-the-talk, but actually walk-the-walk too.

We don’t expect anything other than standard Progressive (Socialist) ideology from the Democrats and they deliver that in spades every chance they get. We do however expect Republicans to stand for both the Constitution and the rule of law. Time to prove what you claim to be for.

8 years ago
Reply to  PaulE

To late sad but true.

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