House Republicans Say Their Staffs Are Ready to Get Screwed on Health Care Costs

Janette Dunder demonstrates against Congress’ inability to pass a budget outside the U.S. Capitol September 30, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

From 2 p.m. to nearly 4 p.m., House Republicans huddled in a conference meeting that was closed to staffers. Lucky them: They didn’t get to hear their bosses agree that the next best end run on the continuing resolution was to attach Sen. David Vitter’s amendment that would take away subsidies for staffers’ health plans.

Like the last couple of gambits, this was telegraphed several days in advance. Unlike the last couple of gambits, this would endorse an amendment that was created purely as a political tactic, and one that would not delay Obamacare itself.

As House Republicans filed out, I asked whether their staffers were on board with this. “We’ve been talking, as you would imagine, for the last several months,” said Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, who did not elaborate on what these poor saps thought.

“It’s difficult for some of these guys,” said Rep. Chris Stewart, a freshman from Utah. “They’re not making much money. I’ve always said that. I understand that. But on the other hand, a lof of them are saying that if this is the way we can delay this bill, I think they’re willing to do that.”

Rep. Pat Tiberi suggested that some staffers weren’t going to suffer, really—and of course the ones who are married to people with excellent health plans won’t suffer. “It’s depending on their own situations,” he said. “It’s mixed. Some have, some others have different situations. It’s a problem, but it’s not unanimous one way or the other.”

Update: Matt Yglesias explains the bizarre and trollish politics that birthed the Vitter amendment.

Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the government shutdown.