Two Congressional Republicans to Refuse Government Health Care


Pursuant to Republican Congressman-elect Andy Harris's unfortunate (for Republicans) and easily capitalized upon (for Democrats) incredulity that his government-funded health coverage will take a month to kick in, Democrat Joe Crowley has been goading Republicans on the question of whether or not they'll accept federally subsidized health care after campaigning, for months on end, against Democratic health care reforms, often referring to it as a "government takeover" of the U.S. health care system.

Crowley has circulated a letter to his Democratic colleagues, to be sent to House Minority Leader (aka Speaker-elect) John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, asking them to "survey the Republican Conference to find out which of their members will forgo the employer-subsidized Federal Employees Health Benefits coverage before trying to make it harder for others to obtain affordable coverage."

As of now, 47 Democrats have signed it.

Leaving aside the fact that the federal insurance coverage offered to members of Congress is a separate issue from Democratic reforms, and the regional exchanges and federal subsidies the new law creates, the generic conceptual resemblance has made for a pressure point that Democrats have not been able to resist poking.

Coincidentally, two Republicans have already said they would refuse health care benefits: Illinois' Bobby Schilling and Pennsylvania's Mike Kelly.

Schilling, who defeated Democrat Phil Hare in Illinois' western 17th district, has turned down federal health benefits as part of a broader pact with his district. He told ABC:

"I've done a contract with my district," Schilling said. "I have term-limited myself. I am not taking the pension. I am not taking pay raises, and my family and I are bringing our own health care to Washington, D.C. And my dad taught me as a kid to lead by example -- Congress should not have anything better than the American people."

Kelly, who defeated freshman Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper in Pennsylvania's northwestern 3rd District, told C-SPAN he would turn down coverage as well. ThinkProgress notes:

KELLY: There is no reason for anybody to get anything different than anybody else. I personally have always paid for my own health care... why should my pension as a public official be any different from anyone else's pension? Why should my health care, as a public official, be any different than anybody else's? No, level across the board. [...]

Perhaps this will lend credence to Crowley's prodding, and put other Republicans on the spot. Or, perhaps not. Democrats, at least, will hope so.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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