This past Monday, newly elected members of the House of Representatives attended a freshman benefits seminar, where they learned details about perks of the job, like federally subsidized health insurance. Republican Andy Harris, an anesthesiologist from Maryland who beat out the incumbent in his district by pushing for a repeal of the health-care bill, reportedly stood up "to ask why his health coverage kicked in 28 days after his official Jan. 3rd swearing-in date."
Enter New York representative Joe Crowley, who voted for health-care reform, but also has a complicated relationship with House liberals given his role as chair of the moderate New Democrat caucus. After today, those relationships might be on the mend. "If your conference wants to deny millions of Americans affordable health care, your members should walk that walk," he wrote in a letter to Republican congressional leaders John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.
The letter continued:
You cannot enroll in the very kind of coverage that you want for yourselves, and then turn around and deny it to Americans who don't happen to be Members of Congress. We also want to note that in 2011, the Federal government will pay $10,503.48 of the premiums for each member of Congress with a family policy under the commonly selected Blue Cross standard plan. ... We look forward to your response in the coming days about exactly how many of the members in the Republican conference will be declining their taxpayer-supported health benefits.”
Oh, snap! By calling attention to the federal funding of congressional health care, Crowley is trying to frame all health insurance guaranteed by the new Obama health-care bill as a fact of life assumed and protected by the state, just like Medicare and Social Security. It's a way of summoning the ghosts of previous Republican failures: When they took back Congress in 1994, they called for cuts in government spending, only to face serious backlash when they were forced to propose specific cuts in Medicare.
Crowley to repealers: Skip coverage [Politico]