WASHINGTON, D.C. — A strongly worded letter from Congressman Jim Matheson is taking on Capitol Hill leadership over health care benefits for Congressional staff.
Matheson wrote the letter Thursday. A copy went to both Republican and Democratic leadership, including House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
It is a very unusual move for a Congressman to criticize leadership in such a public way. Matheson's motivation may be ethical, but it's also clearly political.
Matheson said he wrote the letter after getting wind of secret meetings among Congressional leadership that sought health insurance exemptions for staff on Capitol Hill, to circumvent expensive requirements outlined in Obamacare.
It's unacceptable that leadership of both parties even consider requesting exemptions because of concerns over health care cost increases ... We are expected to live the laws of this country not above them.
–Rep. Jim Matheson
"It's unacceptable that leadership of both parties even consider requesting exemptions because of concerns over health care cost increases to individual members or staff," Matheson wrote.
"We are expected to live the laws of this country not above them," he said.
In a phone interview Friday, Matheson said, "I am very disturbed that there are reports about creating that exemption. I just don't think that's the right thing to do, and I think members of Congress and their staff ought to be like everybody else."
Some speculate Matheson's motive might be political as much as anything else; what he has to gain resides in Utah in the form of votes.
"This is the type of expression that will anger leadership of both parties, but it will be received quite well in Utah, especially in the 4th District where he won with barely 1,000 votes," said Tim Chambless, associate professor at the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.
The Washington Post reports leaders may have had a "nuts and bolts" meeting, about transitioning the benefits to Obamacare requirements. Matheson sticks by his letter, though.
"Of course, now that it's out in the public domain it's not surprising that people would walk back from it," he said.
There is no comment on Matheson's letter at this time from the leadership offices.