Anti-Obamacare Senators Can Afford To Pay More For Insurance, But Their Staff Isn’t So Lucky


Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a Republican who says humans are causing harmful climate change.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced Monday that he will forgo his own federal employer subsidy, joining a group of at least a dozen Senators opting to pay the full cost of their own health insurance. But a ThinkProgress examination of the personal finances of Graham and others seeking to eliminate the subsidy for Congressional staffers finds that them in a much better financial position to do so than their Congressional staff.

Graham is one of seven Senate Republicans — all opponents of the Affordable Care Act — co-sponsoring Sen. David Vitter’s (R-LA) proposed “No Exemption for Washington from Obamacare Act.” The measure would require all members of Congress and staff to participate in state or federal health insurance exchanges and would eliminate the current employer contribution they receive from the federal government. By announcing that they will voluntarily turn down their own subsides even without the amendment, Graham and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) are practicing what they preach — Vitter himself has apparently not yet done the same.

U.S. Senators currently receive an annual salary of $174,000. But their staff is paid considerably less. Graham’s systems administrator receives just $30,000 working in his Congressional office. One Enzi staff assistant makes $30,800 a year, and Vitter’s community liaison earns just over $39,000 annually.

Furthermore, the Center for Responsive Politics estimates that as of 2011, all three GOP lawmakers had considerable holdings that may contribute to their ability to cover the full cost of their insurance. Based on their mandatory personal financial disclosure forms, CRP determined:

  • Mike Enzi had a financial net worth between $322,062 and $1,535,000 .
  • Lindsey Graham had a financial net worth between $505,987 and $1,303,979.
  • David Vitter had a financial net worth between $801,061 and $2,479,000.

While Vitter has enlisted support for his proposal from “citizen co-sponsors” and Tea Party astroturf groups like FreedomWorks, one bipartisan group that is vocally unenthusiastic about the idea has been Congressional staffers. Democratic and Republican staffers alike have panned the proposal. Despite their personal wealth, none of the Vitter amendment supporters has yet volunteered to make up the cost difference for their staffers out of their own funds.