The two members of Congress who represent Minneapolis and St. Paul offered different perspectives on a detail of the Affordable Care Act:
That is, whether it should apply to them.
Appearing together on The Daily Circuit, U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison, both Democrats, agreed that the law establishing health-care exchanges does cover them and their staffs. But Ellison made clear that he considers the provision a political ploy and an inappropriate application of the law.
The provision resulted from an amendment offered by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Under the rule, Congress and its employees lose their old health coverage at the end of 2013. Policies announced earlier this month clarify that the federal government will continue to pay 75 percent of the premiums for health insurance that members of Congress and their staffs purchase through the exchanges.
With Ellison and McCollum in the studio, host Kerri Miller took a call from Greg in St. Paul: "I want to find out if the two of these good people who voted for Obamacare are going to require themselves to sign up for this program." He pointed out that members of Congress make more money than the average taxpayer, and asked whether they should accept federal help on their health-care premiums.
"The original law said that members of Congress and their employees would go out on the exchange and we're following the law," McCollum replied. "We're going to be going out on the exchange."
Ellison, by contrast, said he was "happy to say I disagree" with the premise of Greg's question.
"The original promise of health care reform is if you have health care, you could keep it," he said. "That's not true for members of Congress and our staff.
"The bottom line is, the exchanges were to meet a specific problem, and that is the 50 million uninsured. That's what it was to do. This piece of the law that was designed to address a specific problem is now being used as a political got-you. I just think it's very unfortunate."
He added that members of Congress earn an appropriate salary, given that they must maintain homes in Washington and travel regularly to their districts.
"If you think people in Congress should work for free, then you can do that," he said. "And the only people who will be able to be there is the richest people in our country."
Ellison and McCollum both expressed support for the administration's controversial decision to extend the deadline for businesses to comply with the law's requirements.
"I think that was the right thing," McCollum said.
"For small businesses ... there's been so much confusion out in the marketplace, because there's been all these promises about how, 'Don't worry, don't implement anything, don't get ready, don't learn, don't inform yourself about the law, because we're going to repeal it,'" she said.
"The administration is going through and helping businesses with the implementation, but saying ... we are not going to be punitive with fines against small businesses in the first year of implementation," she said.
Ellison agreed, and said that the act's enemies would use any available means to attack the new law.
"Of course, if you're going to try to bring real reform, it's going to be a large law," he said, and "there will be parts of it that need to be refined as you go along. I don't see that as a problem. I see that as responsive government. Now, if the Obama administration said, 'This is the law. We will not be flexible at all,' I guarantee you some of his political opponents would howl at the moon for that."
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE 113th CONGRESS:
Why isn't Congress stressed over its low approval rating?
This 113th Congress is on track to become the least productive in history, so what better way for them to mark that than by taking off the rest of the summer without finding a way to fund the government come September? (CBS News)
What has Congress done? Not a whole lot, so it will get nasty this fall
Through Friday, the 113th Congress has enacted 22 public laws, just off the pace set by the 112th Congress, which was the least productive in recent history. Congress has spent much of the last few months publicly bickering — about heady issues, to be sure, everything from the Affordable Care Act to NSA surveillance programs — and taking largely symbolic votes, especially in the House, but it has little to show for it, at least so far. (MinnPost)
House rejects effort to rein in NSA surveillance
Conservatives in Minnesota's U.S. House delegation helped defeat proposal to restrict how the National Security Agency collects telephone records. (Star Tribune)