A series of leaked emails authored by House Speaker John Boehner’s chief of staff Mike Sommers show that the Speaker may have coordinated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to exempt Congress from Obamacare.
The emails were leaked Tuesday by Reid chief of staff David Krone, who actually has a history of this sort of thing.
The leaks, which are a major taboo in Washington, show Boehner (R-Ohio) worked behind the scenes earlier this year to address confusion over a provision in the Affordable Care Act that would force members of Congress and their aides into the exchanges. In fact, if one were to go by the leaks, which were first published by Politico, it appears that the offices of Boehner and Reid regularly coordinated to exempt Congress from the health care law.
But given that Boehner is now apparently against congressional Obamacare exemptions, the emails make him look inconsistent and hypocritical – which may have been the point of their leaking.
[B]ehind-the-scenes, Boehner and his aides worked for months with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and others, to save these very same, long-standing [congressional Obamacare] subsidies, according to documents and e-mails provided to POLITICO. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was also aware of these discussions, the documents show.
One email even appears to show that Boehner’s office discussed how it would disguise a planned meeting on the subject with President Barack Obama as a meeting on immigration reform, National Review Online reported.
“We can’t let it get out there that this is for [Boehner] and [Reid] to ask the President to carve us out of the requirement of Obamacare,” Boehner chief of staff Mike Sommers wrote on July 17.
“This is a little bit more difficult because it isn’t a routing meeting because [House Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi and [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell won’t be there,” he wrote. “I am even ok if it is the President hauling us down to talk about the next steps on immigration.”
Republicans said the leaked emails completely mischaracterize the speaker’s actions.
A “senior lawmaker” told National Review Online that Boehner was the one who came up with the idea of using the Obamacare Hill exemption as an issue in the House’s budget battle with the Senate and the White House.
“The only memory I have of him talking about this is about how we could screw them with it,” the lawmaker said.
The email leak has obviously complicated the “high-stakes” negotiations between senior Democrat and Republican lawmakers.
“I’ve never seen anything like it before. I don’t know how David thinks anyone on either side of the aisle will ever be able to work with him again. I guess this is part of Harry Reid’s plan: He refuses to talk with Republicans so I guess his chief of staff figures he doesn’t need to be able to do so either,” a GOP aide told National Review Online.
“He’s a low-rent, self-dealing bagman,” another aide said.
In a statement to National Review Online, Krone defended himself: “Every time one of these anonymous Republican aides takes a look at their paycheck, I hope they remember it was Harry Reid who protected their employer contribution.”
“They and their bosses are welcome to return it if they’re so outraged. I took the action I did because I refuse to stand by and watch those who pressed for this ruling turn around and attack the very thing they asked for, simply because they don’t have the courage to stand up to a few whiners in their caucus. Integrity means owning in public what you advocate for in private,” Krone said.
TheBlaze reported in April that Congress was trying to figure out how to approach the provision of the Affordable Care Act, which was proposed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) during the 2010 debate over Obamacare, that would force members of Congress and their aides into the law’s health exchanges.
The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein noted: “It’s not clear that the federal government has the authority to pay for congressional staffers on the exchanges, the way it pays for them now in the federal benefits program.”
Oh, that meeting with the president Sommers discussed in an email? It never happened.
The latest news on Congressman Boehner calls to mind earlier allegations that he advised the White House in September on how to win Republican votes for U.S. military action in Syria.
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Featured image Getty Images. This post has been updated.