ObamaCare Clusterfuck: It all depends on the meaning of "official office"
A sadly hilarious tale of ObamaCare's incredibly sloppy drafting. Apparently the "What about the staffers?!" permathread is never ending;* WaPo:
The law requires members of Congress and at least some staffers to leave the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program and join the health-care exchanges. ...
The other contentious issue is that some congressional staff members are able to stay in the federal health plan. Boehner (R-Ohio), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have all designated all of their staffs to join the exchanges. So did many other leaders in the Senate and the House. But Reid kept his leadership staff on the federal plan, explaining that he was following the law. Does that mean the others are not following the law? ...
Our story starts with an amendment from Charles Grassley and what happened to it:
During the 2009 debate over the law, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) offered an amendment in the Senate Finance Committee that put members of Congress and staff on the exchanges. Grassley has long sought to have laws passed by Congress apply to Congress, and his amendment was adopted.
In fact, I think Grassley is admirable in this. In Canada, procedures offered by their single payer system -- they call it Medicare! -- cannot be offered privately. That means all Canadians, from the highest (citizens) to the lowest (politicians) have to get care through the single payer system, so all have an incentive to keep their health care system working.
In the Finance Committee, amendments are not written in precise legislative language, but here’s how it described staff who would be covered: “A Congressional employee would be one whose pay is disbursed by the Secretary of the Senate or the Clerk of the House of Representatives.” Similar language appeared in the final version of the Senate Finance bill.
Separately, during a drafting of a version of the law in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) had offered a somewhat similar amendment, which was also adopted. That bill had this language: “The term ‘congressional staff’ means all full-time and part-time employees employed by the official office of a Member of Congress, whether in Washington, DC or outside of Washington, DC.”
When it became time to merge the two bills, Democratic leadership staff chose Coburn’s language for an omnibus version known as “the Reid Amendment.”
And now here comes the excellent part:
The trouble is, once the bill became law, no one knew what “official office” meant. As the Congressional Research Service noted in a report requested by Grassley in late 2009, analysts had not been able to find any previous use of the phrase “official office of a member of Congress” in any previous law or statute.
Long story short, and always assuming good faith, Reid interprets "official office" one way, and Pelosi and McConnell another, so their respective staffs have different mixes of who's forced onto the Exchanges and who isn't.
But I'm fascinated by the term "official office." It implies that a representative can have an unofficial office. So who's in the unofficial office that, presumably, will never get any kind of health benefit? Mistresses? Hookers? Dealers? Brothers-in-law? Lobbyists? Flexians?
It's like I need a Department Of What Can This Possibly Mean? I"ve been feeling that a lot lately, along with gradually coming to the conclusion that most members of the political class are clinically insane.
NOTE * As I've said, I've got no beef with the staffer, and if we cut their take-home pay, we're just going to encourage more Muffies and Bobos and trustfund babies and fresh-faced kids from K Street. If you want government to work, you've got to pay decent salaries and give decent benefits, like anywhere else outside the hellish netherworld of Amazon, fast "food," and other service industries.