POLITICS

Senate Vote Delayed On White House Personnel Director Nominee Katherine Archuleta

Katherine Archuleta

Katherine Archuleta  (Courtesy of White House)

A senior Republican in the Senate plans to delay a full Senate vote on the confirmation of Katherine Archuleta as federal personnel director until questions are answered about health coverage for Capitol Hill staffers, according to The Washington Post.

Sen. Tom Coburn, the ranking Republican on a Senate oversight committee, said Wednesday that he wants to know how health coverage for Capitol Hill staff members will be affected under the Affordable Care Act, the Post reported.

The ACA calls for members of Congress and their staffs to obtain coverage under the law’s insurance exchanges, rather than the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which they currently use.

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee already has approved Archuleta’s nomination. If confirmed, Archuleta would be the first Hispanic to serve as director of the Office of Personnel Management.

One looming question about ACA and its impact on Capitol Hill staffers is whether they would continue to receive an employer contribution – which now covers about 70 percent of their cost – under the new healthcare law.

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“That uncertainty has caused growing anxiety among congressional staffers as the startup of the ACA approaches,” The Post story said, “raising the prospect that retirement-eligible Hill employees would choose to retire before the end of this year in order to keep their health coverage as retirees under the current terms.”

Bradford Fitch, president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation, a nonpartisan organization that works with Congress to improve its operations, told the Post:  “Chiefs of staff are concerned about a brain drain, that senior staff have a significant incentive to leave now.”

“It’s not just an issue of forcing federal employees out of FEHBP, it’s the uncertainty of whether their employer will continue to contribute to their health care plan. They don’t know anything and they‘re getting very worried,” he said.

Many might opt for retirement if the contribution does not continue, he said.

Archuleta was the national political director for Obama for America, the official name for the president’s election campaign, from 2011 to 2012.

Her previous jobs included chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Labor, senior policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Energy, and chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The position for which Obama nominated Archuleta is not part of the Cabinet.

Many Latino organizations have been closely watching Obama appointments amid complaints from many Hispanic groups that, other than recently confirmed Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Obama had not nominated any other Latinos for his Cabinet in his second term.

Perez’s confirmation was delayed several times at the request of Republicans, who voiced strong opposition to Perez's nomination.

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