Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) took aim at GOP leadership Tuesday, asking if incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) would ask Republicans seeking to repeal health care reform to abstain from making use of their congressional health insurance plans.
"It was a central value to us when we passed health care, and a central value to the American people, that members of Congress should get the same health care as eveyrone else," Schumer told POLITICO this morning. "It seems unfair that house Republicans want to deprive middle-class Americans of the same health care as members of Congress but to keep it for themselves."
"Will Eric Cantor urge every Republican who is going to be for repeal to not take government health care themselves and to drop their existing health care?" he asked.
The discussion came in the context of a recently renewed promise by freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), who last month added his name to a shortlist of Republicans who said they would enter Congress with their own health insurance.
"I don't agree with his views on health care, but at least he is being fair and consistent," Schumer said of Walsh's gesture.
Incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) spokesman Michael Steel, however, painted Schumer's cry as disingenuous, suggesting that legislators' reception of federally subsidized health insurance packages was unrelated to their complaints about last year's health care overhaul.
"This is 'junk food' political rhetoric: superficially appealing, but utterly empty. Members of Congress, including Sen. Schumer, get the same type of employer-sponsored health care coverage from private-sector companies as tens of millions of Americans," Steel told Politico. "That has nothing to do with the Democrats' health care law, which is already destroying jobs, and will ultimately bankrupt our country."
In November, incoming Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) ignited a firestorm when he complained during an orientation session about the 28-day waiting period between being sworn in and receiving health care benefits. After asking if there was a public option-like solution to this gap, a group of Democrats shot back, telling Republicans that they should be willing to forgo their own subsidized insurance if they were going to work to repeal legislation meant to provide Americans with affordable health care.