Senate Amendment Forces President On Public Option

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Sen. Tom Coburn and three other senators filed an amendment that would enroll the President, White House staff, members of Congress and all political administrative staff in the government-run public option.

The amendment also would fix language to force leadership and committee staff to also be part of the health program.

“The President, members of Congress and others in our government can demonstrate leadership and confidence in the public option by enrolling themselves in the program. While I oppose the public option, Republicans and Democrats can agree that we should live under the laws we pass," Coburn said.

"I can also think of no better way to ensure that the public option is responsive to our citizens than by having the politicians in charge of the system enrolled in the same program.  If a low-income, single mom has to wait in line for a life saving treatment, so should our national leaders and their families.  Enrolling national leaders in the public option may be the best way to prevent the government from rationing care,” he added. 
Coburn and Sen. Chuck Grassley R-Iowa, joined forces in the floor debate after having won approval of amendments in their respective committees to apply the new health reforms to members of Congress and staff.  Coburn’s amendment in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed with some Democratic support, and Grassley’s amendment in the Finance Committee [each] received unanimous approval.

Grassley learned that staff members of Senate leadership offices and committees are exempted from the requirement that members of Congress and congressional staff get their employer-based health insurance through the same system that would apply to the rest of the country under the Senate majority leader’s health care legislation.  Staff for the majority leader and Democratic committee chairmen wrote the bill behind closed doors.  The carve-out came to light after Grassley asked the non-partisan Congressional Research Service to analyze the bill, and experts confirmed the carve-out.

 The amendment combines the Coburn and Grassley amendments, putting all members of the House and Senate and their staff in the public option in states that have one and in the exchange in states that opt out of the public option.  The amendment fixes the majority leader’s omission of leadership and committee staffs.  It also enrolls the President, the Vice President, White House staff, and all Administration political staff in the public option or exchange (depending on their state).

Coburn and the other original signers of the amendment are asking all senators to sign their proposal and are requesting floor debate.