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Obama signs healthcare bill as Senate begins flurry of votes.

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Obama, Other Top Federal Officials Exempt from Healthcare Exchanges

Obama signs healthcare bill as Senate begins flurry of votes.

President Barack Obama signed the Senate health care bill into law yesterday that will exempt the President, his cabinet secretaries and special congressional staff members from participation in the new government-run health care “exchanges.”   

 Rank-and-file House and Senate staffers will be forced out of the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP) and into the restricted federal health insurance exchanges, but not the leadership or committee congressional staff or the federal civil service bureaucrats who will be making your health care decisions for you.

“This is such an incredible affront to every principle of equality in this country that it demands an immediate apology to the nation by the President,” House Republican Conference Secretary John Carter (Texas) said.  “That should be followed by a straight up-and-down vote in the House and Senate on a bill requiring every member and staff in both Houses and the administration be included in this new monstrosity, with no exceptions for leadership, committee staff, the President’s cabinet, or the President.  If they think this crap is good enough for Joe the Plumber, then it should be good enough for Barack Obama, Rahm Emmanuel, and Tim Geithner.”

The bill was amended behind closed doors by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) back in December to exclude all congressional committee and leadership staff from the horrors of the health care “exchange.”  The President, Vice-President, cabinet members, thousands of Obama administration staff and an unknown number of czars will all remain in the FEHBP. 

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-Okla.) attempted to offer a floor amendment in December that would have nullified Reid’s covert carve-out, but Reid blocked a vote on the amendment.

Grassley offered an amendment to the reconciliation bill last night to apply the reform legislation to the President, Vice-President, cabinet members, top White House staff and all congressional staffers.  It was a Grassley amendment last year that required members of both houses of Congress to participate in the exchanges (although there are doctors and facilities in the White House and on Capitol Hill they can opt to use while they still hold office).

Grassley said the motivation for his amendments is simple:  public officials who make the laws or lead efforts to have laws changed should live under those laws.

“It’s only fair and logical that top administration officials, who fought so hard for passage of this overhaul of America’s health care system, experience it themselves,” Grassley said. “If it’s as good as promised, they’ll know it first-hand.  If there are problems, they’ll be able to really understand them, as they should.”

Sen. Coburn: No Erectile Dysfunction Drugs to Sex Offenders

Sen. Coburn is offering a slate of common sense amendments that are sure to cause heartburn to Democrats.  One such amendment would make sure sex offenders are barred from getting Viagra-style drugs.  (More information on this and all of Coburn’s amendments here.)

Some of the highlights of Coburn amendments:

1.  No Erectile Dysfunction Drugs To Sex Offenders — This amendment would enact recommendations from the Government Accountability Office to stop fraudulent payments for prescription drugs prescribed by dead providers or, to dead patients. This amendment also prohibits coverage of Viagra and other ED medications to convicted child molesters, rapists, and sex offenders, and prohibits coverage of abortion drugs.  (Note: the creation of exchanges could allow sex offenders to receive taxpayer-funded Viagra and other ED drugs unless Congress expressly prohibits this action  

2. Bureaucrat Cap and Trade — This amendment would ensure that no provisions in the health bill increase the size of government bureaucracies in Washington, D.C. This amendment requires that for each government bureaucrat added to a government agency as a result of this act, there must be a corresponding decrease in a government bureaucrat at that agency. The federal government should not grow the bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., when one in 10 Americans is looking for work and twice as many are underemployed.

3. Repeal New Powers Given to the Secretary of HHS — Nearly 1,700 times in the new health bill (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), the secretary of Health and Human Services is given new authorities to write regulations, issue definitions, and decide on the fate of Americans’ health care. Congress should be empowering patients and physicians, not bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

You can find the summary and text of all amendments that will be offered to the reconciliation bill by Republican Senators here.

Vote-a-Rama Looms Large

The Senate is in the midst of the 20-hour debate period allowed under the budget reconciliation procedure, which will be followed by endless amendments offered in a “Vote-a-Rama” that allows only two minutes — one minute for each side — to introduce and debate the amendment before a vote.

It looks like this: (Video courtesy of GradeGov.com http://gradegov.com )

For all of you closely watching Democrats’ sheer destruction of the rules, the Senate has entered unprecedented territory again in the reconciliation process. Because the reconciliation package originated in the House, and didn’t move through the normal Senate committee process, the rules are literally being rewritten as they go along.

One senior Senate staffer tells HUMAN EVENTS, “All of this has created a high degree of uncertainty about how the parliamentarian might rule.  Republicans are just as exasperated as every other American about the dirty nature of this process. If all this chicanery were happening in a third-world country, people would be calling for the U.N. to go stabilize the situation.”

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Connie Hair writes a weekly column for HUMAN EVENTS. She is a former speechwriter for Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.).

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