Many lawmakers on Capitol Hill blasted the Obama Administration this week for ongoing technical problems with the rollout of HealthCare.Gov — the new federal health insurance exchange website. This week, lawmakers had to decide whether to require their own staffs to use the exchanges rather than the traditional Federal Employees Benefits Program. The Affordable Care Act bill included an amendment requiring certain congressional staff to get health care from the new exchanges. But there hasn't been a consensus among lawmakers on how to follow the requirement, and it's been up to each office to decide which staff members are affected. David Hawkings, writer of the Hawkings Here column for Roll Call, has some of the details.
On how members are deciding which staff members should enter the exchanges:
"One-by-one and under some intense lobbying from their own staff, there is some guidance for the lawyers on Capitol Hill, which is that in general, the personal staff — the members that are assigned to work for members of Congress in their personal offices — could be on the exchanges. What it says is: members of Congress and their congressional staff. So there seems to be no dispute. Personal aides would have to be on the exchanges. But the smaller group of people, the several thousand people who work for the committees can stay on the FEHB ((the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program)."
On how important lawmakers' decisions will be:
"It could come into play politically. It's interesting to me that the author of this amendment, who is widely being criticized for not crafting it carefully — Chuck Grassley, Republican Senator from Iowa — has decided to keep his committee on the federal employee program."
On Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski supporting Hilary Clinton in a presidential run:
"On the one hand, not a surprise because Sen. Mikulski was with Sen. Clinton eight years ago. She was one of the earlier endorses of Hilary Clinton. But what's interesting to me is that, of course, she represents Maryland, where there is a rather prominent politician with national aspirations — Gov. Martin O'Malley has made little secret of his desire to run for president. And that fact that she would endorse Clinton and not her home-state guy, or at least not stay neutral, is an indication of the kind of inevitability surge we seem to all be talking about."
Listen to the full analysis here.