Incoming GOP Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois has decided to put his money where his mouth is and turn down the federally funded health insurance package provided to members of Congress.
While in office, the Tea Party-backed, anti-health care reform Walsh will be under pressure to prove his commitment to fiscal restraint. The Chicago News Cooperative spells out how he intends to do it.
Mr. Walsh, 48, will get about $1.4 million annually to run his operation and plans as many as three district branches. He'll sleep in his office in Washington, while his family stays here in McHenry. And get this: he's turned down the usual congressional health care, pension and retirement packages.
"I don't think congressmen should get pensions or cushy health care plans," he said. His wife is not exhilarated with the latter decision; she has a pre-existing medical condition and is now forced to hunt for a plan.
Last month Rep.-elect Andy Harris (R-Md.), who ran on a platform opposing health care reform and federally funded health insurance, drew fire for complaining he was not receiving his government-provided health care benefits fast enough.
After Harris's comments, Democratic legislators sought to highlight the hypocrisy, calling for all Republicans who ran against health care reform to forgo their own government insurance packages.
"You cannot enroll in the very kind of coverage that you want for yourselves, and then turn around and deny it to Americans who don't happen to be Members of Congress," wrote Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) to Republicans in November.
A viral campaign headed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee later encouraged supporters to pressure Republicans with a similar message.
Reps.-elect Bobby Schilling (Ill.) and Mike Kelly (Pa.) were the first GOPers to take Democrats up on their challenge, though newcomers Tim Walberg of Michigan and Bill Johnson of Ohio have since joined in the promise to head to Washington next year with their own health insurance plans.