Washington Briefs: Obamacare participation

by jordan blum

Advocate Washington bureau

U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., filed similar pieces of legislation to force President Barack Obama and his cabinet secretaries to personally participate in the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare.

The “In It All Together Act” by Cassidy, who supports repealing the health-care law, was filed after talks were publicized of an effort to make tweaks to the requirement that staffers of members of Congress must participate in the upcoming health-care exchanges.

The Affordable Care Act, as approved by Congress, requires members of Congress and their employees to participate in the health-care exchanges, but not the White House administration.

“President Obama and (U.S. Health and Human Services) Secretary (Kathleen) Sebelius forced Obamacare on the American people,” Cassidy said in his announcement. “My staff and I are prepared to go on the exchanges, as bad as they might be, because that’s what many Americans will have to do. The president and his staff should do the same.”

Cassidy is running against Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., in her 2014 re-election effort. Landrieu voted in favor of the Affordable Care Act and defends how it will expand health care to millions of more Americans. The health-care law is expected to be a key issue in their political campaigns.

Richmond pressured

Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, received pressure from the left-leaning MoveOn.org group to support gay marriage in a petition delivered to his office.

No member of the Louisiana delegation has backed gay marriage and Richmond is one of just 17 House Democrats who have not offered their support.

Kimberly Pratt, a New Orleans MoveOn.org member, noted that Richmond has the most Democratic-tilted district of out every member of Congress who has not yet backed gay marriage.

“Allowing gay people to marry is as American as apple pie,” Pratt said in a prepared statement. “Our gay citizens deserve liberty, justice, and equality in the eyes of their fellow Americans and in the books of the law. My life has been enriched by the many gay friends I have had and I am willing to take a stand on their behalf.”

Richmond released a prepared statement touting his support of equal rights for all, but he stopped short of endorsing gay marriage.

“I am a firm proponent of equal rights and support efforts to end prejudice against all human beings,” Richmond stated. “A person’s decision concerning who they commit their life to should be respected regardless of gender, race or sexual preference. Our collective goal as Americans should be to strive to treat all people with decency and fairness.”

FEMA accountability

Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, and U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, are demanding accountability from FEMA after a “miscommunication of details” was released to some homeowners in south Louisiana on rate maps for flood insurance premium rate hikes.

They wrote a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate asking for FEMA to better work with state and local officials as changes to the National Flood Insurance Program are implemented this year.

“If these premium adjustments are not administered fairly, it could force thousands of Louisiana families to drop their flood insurance, or in some cases, even lose their homes because of the sheer cost of flood insurance,” Scalise stated. “I strongly agree with local officials that FEMA should take into consideration nonfederal flood protection systems when determining flood elevations and risk. It is important that Louisiana families have access to a fair and affordable flood insurance program.”

Richmond noted potential unfair rate impacts to residents of the west bank of St. Charles Parish.

In a somewhat related effort, Richmond also filed the Recognizing the National Benefits of Flood Protection Act of 2013 that would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to calculate the national benefit of proposed flood protection programs.

“To secure funding for flood protection in this tight fiscal climate, the Corps must understand how important Louisiana’s — most-endangered communities are to the national economy,” Richmond stated. “There are a number of pending flood protection projects that would protect billions of dollars in infrastructure, including oil refineries and the homes of thousands of energy workers.”

Compiled by Jordan Blum, who is chief of The Advocate Washington bureau. His email address is jblum@theadvocate.com