Las Vegas Review -Journal Rewrites History To Accuse Sen. Reid Of Exempting Staff From Obamacare

The Las Vegas Review-Journal erroneously claimed that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is providing special treatment to part of his staff by not requiring them to purchase insurance on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchange, despite the fact that the law does not require leadership staff members to participate in the exchange.

A December 7 Review-Journal editorial attacked Sen. Reid for not forcing his leadership staff off of their employer-based coverage and onto the health insurance exchanges before misleadingly claiming that the GOP had “no culpability” in obstructing improvements for the ACA:

The Affordable Care Act requires the official staffs of each federal lawmaker to abandon their medical coverage through the Federal Employee Health Benefit program and purchase subsidized insurance through the law's exchanges. But, as reported Thursday by the Review-Journal's Steve Tetreault, the law allows the staff of congressional committees and leadership offices to stay off the exchanges and keep their current benefits, if their lawmaker bosses so decide.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., nonetheless diverted their entire staffs to the exchanges to obtain health insurance. Sen. Reid did not.


Kristen Orthman, a spokeswoman for Sen. Reid, said her boss is following the law and has proposed a fix to the staff coverage discrepancy, but Republicans won't go along. Imagine that: The GOP, which has no culpability in this mess, actually wants something in return for votes that are politically beneficial to Democrats whose poll numbers are tanking. 

The attack on Sen. Reid is an attempt to score political points in an on going partisan battle over the ACA. The Review-Journal and conservative opponents are criticizing Reid for following the Grassley Amendment, an amendment to the ACA proposed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) that forced members and legislative staff onto the exchanges instead of allowing them to keep their own employer-based insurance as millions of Americans have under the ACA. This tweak to the ACA law made the decision to place leadership committee staff on the exchanges optional. 

As noted in the editorial, while some members have pushed their entire staff onto the exchange, other members have chosen not to pull their leadership committee staffers from federal policies. Sen. Grassley himself opted to keep his committee staffers on their current federal policies while Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) found a way to for his entire staff to keep their employer-based coverage.

The Review-Journal also failed to note that Reid has offered a fix to the Grassley Amendment that would force all staff members, regardless of position, onto the exchanges. According to Reid's spokeswoman Kristen Orthman, “Sen. Reid has proposed changing the law so all staff and members go on the exchange but unfortunately, Republicans have shown no interest in trying to fix the law but rather just want to kill it.”

The editorial's claim that the GOP has “no culpability in this mess,” referring to issues with the ACA, contradicts the very GOP leaders who are trying to make the law fail. As a November 1 Politico article noted, one of the causes of the ACA's shortcomings was “calculated sabotage by Republicans at every step.” The piece continued:

From the moment the bill was introduced, Republican leaders in both houses of Congress announced their intention to kill it. Republican troops pressed this cause all the way to the Supreme Court -- which upheld the law, but weakened a key part of it by giving states the option to reject an expansion of Medicaid. The GOP faithful then kept up their crusade past the president's reelection, in a pattern of “massive resistance” not seen since the Southern states' defiance of the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.

The opposition was strategic from the start: Derail President Barack Obama's biggest ambition, and derail Obama himself. Party leaders enforced discipline, withholding any support for the new law -- which passed with only Democratic votes, thus undermining its acceptance. Partisan divisions also meant that Democrats could not pass legislation smoothing out some rough language in the draft bill that passed the Senate. That left the administration forced to fill far more gaps through regulation than it otherwise would have had to do, because attempts -- usually routine -- to re-open the bill for small changes could have led to wholesale debate in the Senate all over again.

Right-wing obstruction goes beyond dozens of dead-end repeal votes in the House. In California, conservatives created fake websites designed to confuse and deter people from gaining coverage through the state exchanges while 40 House Republicans have signed on to legal challenge against the ACA in another attempt to have the courts block the law.