It's a special day in Washington D.C. when a veteran Republican congressman violates the sacred 11th commandment famously put forward by Ronald Reagan: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”

To be fair, violations of that commandment have become more frequent in the wake of last year's government shutdown, when a number of Republicans publicly chastised Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas for orchestrating a stalemate that wrought billions of dollars of damage to the U.S. economy and a drop in public support for the GOP.

But the terms U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, used to describe Sen. Ron Johnson — a fellow Republican and a fellow Wisconsinite, no less — were far outside the bounds of what we have come to expect in public intra-party disputes.

The arch-conservative, who was first elected to the House in 1978, castigated Johnson for suing the federal government over the insurance deal members of Congress and their staffs are receiving through the Affordable Care Act. Johnson argues that because the law authorized Congressional employees to buy insurance through the exchanges, they should no longer continue to receive an employer contribution to help pay for their insurance.

Sensenbrenner, in so many words, told Johnson to stop being a nuisance.

“Senator Johnson’s lawsuit is an unfortunate political stunt,” he said in a statement. “I am committed to repealing Obamacare, but the employer contribution he’s attacking is nothing more than a standard benefit that most private and all federal employees receive — including the president.”

Sensenbrenner continued, invoking a logic that seems strangely similar to that advanced by Wisconsin public employee unions in recent years:

“Success in the suit will mean that Congress will lose some of its best staff and will be staffed primarily by recent college graduates who are still on their parents’ insurance,” he said.

And in case any Republicans had any doubts that losing experienced Congressional staff would be such a bad thing, Sensenbrenner makes clear the implications: “This will make it even more difficult to fight the President and his older, more experienced staff.”

The actual issue at hand is confusing and the product of political grandstanding by both parties during the debate over Obamacare four years ago.

The health insurance exchanges through which Congressional employees are now required to buy coverage were not intended for employees of large employers who already had good health care coverage, as most federal employees have. Requiring Congressional workers to buy insurance through the exchanges was instead a symbolic show of confidence by Congressional Democrats in the system they were creating.

But while Congressional staff will technically have to purchase their own insurance plans, the federal government will continue to pay for a large chunk of the cost.

For what it's worth, Johnson's friends at Right Wisconsin have already come to his defense. And a poll conducted on that website shows that 92 percent of readers agree with Johnson over Sensenbrenner on the issue, a result that is not terribly surprising — improving or maintaining benefits for federal employees has not exactly been a top priority on conservative talk radio.

Johnson also has the help of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, a legal group funded largely by the Bradley Foundation that fights for conservative causes in court. 

This is not the first time that Johnson's employee relations have been a source of controversy. Nearly two years ago an article by Roll Call, a Washington political magazine, alleged that he was planning to fire his entire his staff and was losing aides. He disputed the allegation and there has been no news of a mass firing since. 

Jack Craver is the Capital Times political reporter, focusing on elections, candidates and campaign finance.

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(21) comments

saunaaiti
saunaaiti

Who is paying for this lawsuit? Will the funds come out of the millionaire's pocket or is he going to soak the taxpayers? Cap Times should look into who is paying for such a stunt.

hankdog
hankdog

Don't you love it when they eat their own?

Ego Vigilabo Vigilum
Ego Vigilabo Vigilum

hankdog;

Sure do!

http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2014/01/05/alec-baldwin-mocks-melissa-harris-perry-if-i-cry-will-i-be-forgiven-a

elroy2u
elroy2u

Evidently Sensenbrenner just got back from partying with Rob Ford .

BDWIRunner
BDWIRunner

@Toobad can you please provide all of the readers here the number of the bill that Ron Johnson introduced to fix this problem?

BDWIRunner
BDWIRunner

Let me see if I have this right.

The GOP adds an amendment to the ACA that creates a special class of employee that is treated differently than any other employee. The ACA is designed to have health insurance provided by employers, but this GOP change specifically takes the employer provided health insurance away from this group of employees.

The employer then looks into the matter and they find that under other employment law they are required to provide the health insurance benefits to the employees affected by the GOP amendment. So the employer follows BOTH laws by taking away the health insurance, but still providing the monetary subsidy required.

When the employer figures out how to reconcile the contradictory mandates they are then sued for doing so.

This sounds like a story for Ron Johnson's "Victims of Government" series.

What is amazing is that Senator Johnson claims he is working in the public interest in creating this Catch-22 legislation, then instead of working on a legislative fix he decides to spend taxpayer money in court instead of doing his job legislating - which is what we pay him to do. If Sen. Johnson wants to get this changed why hasn't he drafted legislation to fix it?

Sennsebrenner is right on the money. This is not only a political stunt, Johnson is using taxpayer money to pay for it.

toobad
toobad

No you don't have it right. Not even in your alternative world.

glenglish
glenglish

Republicans think government is the problem. Never vote into government someone who thinks government is the problem, unless you want problems.

JoeBiteme
JoeBiteme

What else would you expect from a bloated career politician like Sensenbrenner. Kudos to Ron Johnson for standing up to Obama and his Chicago thug tactics on the American people. What Sensenbrenner calls "standard benefits" for congress is quickly becoming out of reach for the hard working middle class.

OscarD
OscarD

Joey: hilarious post.

toobad
toobad

James Sensenbrenner: Author of the Patriot Act, Father of the Fascist Police State, Poster Boy for Term Limits.

koala
koala

There is no cure for the stupid or the ideologically blinded. And certainly not for both, which is bad news for Ron Johnson. His favorability is at 28% now. Heaven help him when he comes up for re-election if he's lost even Jim Sensenbrenner's support.

glenglish
glenglish

Maybe heaven will help him outta office.

koala
koala

Let us pray!

davea
davea

I like to use the phrase "place brain in gear before operating mouth", but in Johnson's case that wouldn't help!

Lynne4300
Lynne4300

Time for Sensenbrenner to consider retirement.

glenglish
glenglish

Barely outta the starting gate in the year of the horse and this Johnson guy ain't only backing the wrong one, it's dead and he's whipping the tar outta it.

GOOD DOG HAPPY MAN
GOOD DOG HAPPY MAN

All Federal employees and legislators should be subject to the same laws that We, the American People are. It would only be fair.

Remove your ideological goggles and you, too, could experience an Epiphany.

RichardSRussell
RichardSRussell

Good ole Ron Johnson, a political journalist's best friend. Just when you're starting to think that a hyper-cold post-holiday Monday has gotta be the slowest news day on record, along comes our Ron with another mind boggler. There's liberal, there's centrist, there's conservative, and then there's off the spectrum altogether.

JoeBiteme
JoeBiteme

Dick even you have to agree with Johnson on this one. Political or not what's right is right.

RichardSRussell
RichardSRussell

And joining RoJo in trying to even FIND the spectrum, we have ol' reliable JoeBiteme, which I suppose goes some way toward explaining how Sen. Clueless got elected in the 1st place.

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