House Speaker John Boehner announced Republicans' proposed changes to the Senate budget deal on Tuesday morning. While it originally looked like they were cutting staffers a break, reports indicate that the only way House Republicans will come together is if they get a chance to screw their staff. The House GOP wants to employ Sen. David Vitter's amendment, which removes employer contributions to legislator and staff health insurance. As one Republican member of Congress told NBC's Luke Russert on Tuesday, "I just don't see what they get out of screwing over their employees so much."
Update, 4:27 pm: The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza is collecting anonymous statements from GOP and Democratic staffers about the Vitter amendment. As you might guess, staffers aren't too happy about it.
GOP staffer on Vitter amendment... pic.twitter.com/37rV8zq0o1— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) October 15, 2013
Dem staffer on Vitter amedment... pic.twitter.com/h2N0VmQ5bk— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) October 15, 2013
Some even got creative.
A House Republican staffer on the Vitter amendment (includes art!)… pic.twitter.com/CpChGYUNDp— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) October 15, 2013
Original post: The Vitter amendment has been a point of contention in budget negotiations since before the shutdown. While House Republicans say the amendment is about making sure Washington leaders aren't "shielded from" Obamacare, it really just gives their staff a big pay cut. (The Obamacare exchanges were set up for people who couldn't get insurance through their employers; lawmakers and staffers were previously eligible for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.) In the proposal House Republicans floated on Tuesday, Boehner had removed the subsidy cut for staff, leaving it only for lawmakers, the president and vice president, and cabinet members. But as The National Review's Robert Costa reports, that idea won't pass the House with Republican votes:
What's in the works now: adding FULL Vitter language to House plan, prob only way to get 218+— Robert Costa (@robertcostaNRO) October 15, 2013
According to Costa, conservatives "don't like the idea of keeping staffers out." At the conference, Boehner admitted that the plan he was proposing wasn't set in stone: "There have been no decisions about what exactly we will do."
The day before the shutdown, House Republicans kicked their staff out of a meeting to discuss the Vitter amendment. One GOP staffer later told Mother Jones, "Congress literally threw staff under the bus on this… You're hurting staff assistants who are sorting your mail." Just today, Rep. Joe Barton kicked his staff out of a House GOP meeting so he could push other members to support the Vitter amendment.
Senate Democrats, namely Majority Leader Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer, have repeatedly tried to kill the Vitter amendment. And according to a Politico report from last week, Boehner doesn't like the amendment, either. Though he publicly pushed to add it to the budget deal, he worked in private with Reid to maintain employer contributions for legislator and staff healthcare.
So the likelihood that "full" Vitter language passes the Senate is slim. That doesn't mean House Republicans won't keep pushing for it, right up until the debt ceiling deadline Thursday. Their staff must sure appreciate the effort.