Dems on Capitol Hill retreat from ObamaCare exemption; Update: Dems getting nervous about Obamacare?

It didn’t take long for Democrats to hit reverse on their effort to exempt Capitol Hill from ObamaCare’s exchange rules.  The Hill reports this morning that not only are they no longer seeking an exemption, but that they never sought one in the first place:

Democratic leaders said Thursday they’re not seeking an exemption from a central requirement of ObamaCare — that members of Congress and their staff purchase healthcare coverage through insurance exchanges. …

The healthcare law requires lawmakers and congressional staff to buy their healthcare coverage through the newly created insurance exchanges.

Democrats have raised questions about the mechanics of that requirement, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) both said Thursday they do not believe the mandate should be lifted.

Their lips say no no no, but Politico said yesterday they were eyeing a way to get to yes.  Today, Politico follows up with a slightly different explanation from Pelosi’s office than the Hill got:

“Due to vague language inserted in the Affordable Care Act by Senator Chuck Grassley, not all congressional staff and Members of Congress are treated the same under the law,” Hammill wrote, noting that “no one is suggested anyone be ‘exempted’ from the ACA.”

Hammill added that, “Leader Pelosi has suggested as a possible fix to the Grassley language that all Members and all staff (committee, leadership and personal office) be required to choose exchange plans through the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan. This fix would not require legislation and could be dealt with administratively and would not exempt Members or staff from any part of the ACA.”

Pelosi told reporters Thursday that she has been in “close contact” with her deputy, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), about his talks to tweak health benefits for congressional lawmakers and aides.

“Reading the legislation carefully as to what it calls for and what an exchange is, and what the federal employee health benefit plan is compatible plan under the exchanges, we just have to look at all of that,” Pelosi said.

Did you catch the Clintonian parsing of the word “exchange”? And note how all of this suddenly became Grassley’s fault, in a bill that Democrats pushed through the Senate using the deeply deceptive reconciliation process.  They had plenty of time to fix the language and might have done so in an open process, where committees could offer mark-ups and amendments.  Instead, Pelosi said this about the process she herself employed to pass ObamaCare:

Maybe we should have found out what was in it first, and maybe the “fog of controversy” was actually rational concern over the intended and unintended consequences of the bill — the latter of which Pelosi and her cohorts were trying to avoid in an under-the-radar exemption.

That effort is dead, at least for the moment.  Glenn Reynolds notes, “Shaming works,” but I’d caution that shame on Capitol Hill is a very temporary and curable affliction.

Update: The New York Times thinks Democrats are getting mighty nervous about the rollout of ObamaCare, too — and angry:

 Democratic senators, at a caucus meeting with White House officials, expressed concerns on Thursday about how the Obama administration was carrying out the health care law they adopted three years ago.

Democrats in both houses of Congress said some members of their party were getting nervous that they could pay a political price if the rollout of the law was messy or if premiums went up significantly.

According to the NYT report, the White House has finally started to realize that employers will cut hours in order to avoid the costs of ObamaCare, but apparently have no idea how to address it:

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, who is up for re-election next year, said, ”We are hearing from a lot of small businesses in New Hampshire that do not know how to comply with the law.”

In addition, Mrs. Shaheen said, ”restaurants that employ people for about 30 hours a week are trying to figure out whether it would be in their interest to reduce the hours” of those workers, so the restaurants could avoid the law’s requirement to offer health coverage to full-time employees.

The White House officials ”acknowledged that these are real concerns, and that we’ve got to do more to address them,” Mrs. Shaheen said.

I think we need a little more shaming.

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