Club for Growth U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton is flogging a popular topic of the rabid right today — touting his legislation (which will go nowhere in any case) that purports to prevent the Office of Personnel Management from “unlawfully” providing health care subsidies for members of Congress and their staffs.
Did Obama really do such a thing?
* No. Says factcheck.org.
* No. Says Media Matters.
* No. Says Jonathan Chait.
* No. Says Ezra Klein.
It’s all about fixing a problem created by political gamesmanship that could have prevented the federal government from paying its normal contribution to employees’ health insurance. But it’s become a beloved right-wing talking point and Cotton, Obama’s soulmate on missiles, needs to get some cred back with that group.
The best I can find in support of Cotton’s dishonest representation is PolitiFact, often willing to give lying Republicans the benefit of the doubt (it’s scored Cotton before, however.) It called a claim by a Republican critic like Cotton on the supposed sweetheart treatment for Congress “half true.”
Handel said Congress negotiated itself a special rule to prevent its health care benefits from rising. She’s used the words “exception” and “exemption” to describe what happened.
Congress, according to several news accounts and a GOP senator, was pushing to get this done, although it came from an order by the Obama administration. Most conservatives describe the decision as an exemption. The OPM says the rule is a continuation of past policies for funding health care coverage for congressional workers and their bosses.
Handel’s basic claim seems to be in the ballpark. But it needs a lot of context to be fully understood.
It’s true that members of Congress and some of their staffs will continue to have an employer contribution toward their health insurance premiums. But they will also still have to go through the health care exchanges like other people.
Republicans like Cotton have never met a complicated situation they couldn’t reduce to a dishonest whopper so appealing in form that it’s too good to check out. Look at this one. Why wouldn’t you think a member of Congress would go along with a sweetheart deal? Easy to believe. Sorry. Tom Cotton’s pants are on fire.
UPDATE: Cotton insists that he believes the law doesn’t allow the Office of Personnel Management to make payments toward employee insurance.