Liz Cheney on Wednesday asked Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi to reimburse the U.S. Treasury if he accepts federal subsidies as part of his congressional health care plan offered through an exchange, as set up under recent health care reforms sometimes called Obamacare.
In a Wednesday interview, Enzi answers Cheney’s request by saying he’s been trying to defund and dismantle Obamacare since 2009 and will continue to do so.
It was the second consecutive day Cheney used Obamacare as campaign fodder against her opponent and fellow Republican in the 2014 Senate race. Cheney spurred her series of attacks Tuesday after the White House’s Office of Personnel Management issued a proposed rule change that would allow members of Congress to receive contributions to help pay for insurance obtained through the new exchanges when the federal Affordable Care Act — now federal law — goes into effect next year.
Cheney took the issue one step further on Wednesday by urging Enzi to not accept a federal subsidy for insurance purchased through the exchange — essentially a marketplace for insurance plans — when it goes into effect Jan. 1. The proposal from the Office of Personnel Management will go into effect next month unless action by the Obama administration is taken to prevent it from becoming law.
The proposed rule change has Cheney, Enzi and some lawmakers across the country up in arms because it would void language in the Affordable Care Act that requires members of Congress and their staffers to have the same plans and see the same subsidies as the health care law offers to everyone else in the country. The proposed ruling allows the federal government to give lawmakers a subsidy that would provide a single member of Congress with $5,000 per year for insurance and $11,000 for those with families.
No one else in the nation would be entitled to the subsidy, which is why Cheney is calling it a form of “special treatment.”
Even though Cheney and Enzi are both opposed to the rule change, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney is using the move as a way to highlight dysfunction in Congress. Cheney said the Obama administration’s proposed rule change was a behind-the-scenes deal with Congress. On Tuesday, her campaign released an online petition to demand that Enzi and Congress not receive special treatment in their health insurance plans.
“Yesterday, my opponent issued a statement claiming that he opposed this kind of special treatment,” Cheney said in a media release issued Wednesday. “Senator Enzi should walk the walk on this one. If he is opposed to this special deal, he should agree to return his taxpayer-funded ObamaCare subsidy money to the U.S. Treasury, and he should lead in convincing his senate colleagues to do so, too.”
Cheney and Enzi have been traveling Wyoming this week, meeting with constituents.
Cheney is in campaign mode, speaking at events, collecting contributions, sending out press releases and advertising in the state. Enzi is traveling from town to town for “listening sessions,” meetings he regularly schedules during congressional recess periods, where he lets constituents ask him questions and express their concerns for the country.
Despite the travel, the three-term senator has yet to kick his campaign into gear. He’s scheduled to speak to conservative donors and activists next month in New York, but he’s still without a campaign website, bumper stickers, advertisements and campaign staff. He said he has a full-time job representing Wyomingites in Washington and hasn’t announced when he will unveil a campaign team in the state.
“I have a lot of work to do in Washington,” he said at his Casper office on Wednesday.
Enzi said Cheney’s politicking this week is nothing more than an attempt to distort his record. Enzi said he would be glad to explain his more than 5,000 votes in Congress with anyone who has questions. He also raised concerns about Cheney’s lack of time in public office. She’s never been an elected official but served two stints in the State Department from 2002 to 2003 and 2005 to 2007.
“I’d be happy to look at all the votes Liz Cheney has made serving in a municipality, legislature and Congress,” Enzi said. “She can tell me whatever she wants about them.”