While Ted Cruz and Mike Lee consider their next steps procedurally in the Senate, here’s Rand Paul via Mediaite already preparing Plan B for if/when the “defund” strategy fizzles. Remember how, a few months ago, members of Congress were panicked that their staffers would start quitting en masse this fall thanks to an O-Care rule that Chuck Grassley inserted into the final bill in 2010? The rule required congressional workers to drop their federally subsidized health-care coverage and fend for themselves on ObamaCare’s exchanges just like the rest of the rabble out there. Many staffers wouldn’t be able to afford the loss of subsidies, though; the only way out for some would be to quit and head to K Street or beyond to make a living. Our leader, knowing that he could ill afford any more discontent on the Hill over his pet boondoggle and confident that he can suspend or ignore whichever ObamaCare provisions he chooses, got the Office of Personnel and Management to issue a new regulation stating that subsidies would continue for federal staffers even after they bought a new health-care plan on the exchange. Crisis averted!
Or is it? Here’s Paul suggesting that, in lieu of defunding, one of the things the GOP could insist on in a compromise is making sure all federal employees have to live with O-Care, warts and all. David Vitter introduced a similar bill last week; via David Freddoso, watch Nebraska Senate candidate Ben Sasse below make the same argument in his new ad. The issue may be too small-ball for most defunders’ liking given their ambitions to stop the entire law cold (which won’t happen anyway), but the politics of it would be excruciating for Democrats. Either they agree to the Vitter/Paul amendment and hope that the resulting brain drain among their staffers isn’t too much of a political and logistical nightmare for the Hill’s O-Care supporters, or they oppose it and try to explain to the public why the thought of having to cope with Obama’s big legislative “achievement” without taxpayer subsidies is horrifying. The only hitch here: Can Vitter/Paul get majority support among Republicans? They’re worried about the brain drain too. As much as they’d love to make Democrats squirm by backing this, some of them also petitioned Obama to keep the subsidies flowing to staffers earlier this year. I don’t know if this will get anti-ObamaCare forces any closer to 60 votes than the “defund” bill will.