Little-covered by the "mainstream media" are the exemptions to Obamacare issued to all members of Congress and their employees. Yup, the Obama Administration and Congress, including Democrats and Republicans, suddenly became bipartisan buddies when it came to sticking you with Obamacare, as they carved out some exemptions for themselves. The Wall Street Journal reported in an August editorial:
the statute means that about 11,000 Members and Congressional staff will lose the generous coverage they now have as part of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). Instead they will get the lower-quality, low-choice "Medicaid Plus" of the exchanges. The Members—annual salary: $174,000—and their better paid aides also wouldn't qualify for ObamaCare subsidies. That means they could be exposed to thousands of dollars a year in out-of-pocket insurance costs.
The result was a full wig out on Capitol Hill, with Members of both parties fretting about "brain drain" as staff face higher health-care costs. Democrats in particular begged the White House for help, claiming the Reid language was merely an unintentional mistake. President Obama told Democrats in a closed-door meeting last week that he would personally moonlight as HR manager and resolve the issue.
And now the White House is suspending the law to create a double standard. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that runs federal benefits will release regulatory details this week, but leaks to the press suggest that Congress will receive extra payments based on the FEHBP defined-contribution formula, which covers about 75% of the cost of the average insurance plan. For 2013, that's about $4,900 for individuals and $10,000 for families. Article
Congress live by the same rules as the rest of us? The horror. However, Senator David Vitter and some congressmen decided to fight this unlawful double standard and filed bills in the House and Senate. Vitter's S #1497 states:
‘(iii) GOVERNMENT CONTRIBUTION- No Government contribution under section 8906 of title 5, United States Code, shall be provided on behalf of an individual who is a Member of Congress, a congressional staff member, the President, the Vice President, or a political appointee for coverage under this paragraph.
‘(iv) LIMITATION ON AMOUNT OF TAX CREDIT OR COST-SHARING- An individual enrolling in health insurance coverage pursuant to this paragraph shall not be eligible to receive a tax credit under section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 or reduced cost sharing under section 1402 of this Act in an amount that exceeds the total amount for which a similarly situated individual (who is not so enrolled) would be entitled to receive under such sections.
‘(v) LIMITATION ON DISCRETION FOR DESIGNATION OF STAFF- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a Member of Congress shall not have discretion in determinations with respect to which employees employed by the office of such Member are eligible to enroll for coverage through an Exchange.’.
H.B. #3076 has similar language. Didn't take long for the Empire to strike back. The Journal reported in an editorial Saturday:
his colleagues haven't taken too kindly to Mr. Vitter's candor. First GOP staffers colluded with their counterparts across the aisle to prevent Mr. Vitter from attaching his measure to an unrelated energy bill. When their cloakroom mugging failed, Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled the whole thing from the floor in part to prevent an up-or-down vote.
Mr. Reid then held a tetchy press conference to denounce "these really juvenile political games" and claim that "we'll be treated like the rest of the federal employees." Yet Members are supposed to join the exchanges to experience ObamaCare first-hand like their constituents, not from the vantage point of a cushy federal job
Mr. Reid's defensive crouch shows that perks for the political class are impossible for the political class to defend in public. Me-thee favoritism resonates at a visceral level like few other issues, and while the press corps didn't notice, the subject came up constantly at town halls over the recess. An August poll by the conservative group Independent Women's Voice found that 92% of likely voters think the exemption is unfair, regardless of their view of ObamaCare. Even 88% of Democrats are opposed.
The larger mystery is the Republican cone of silence, unless this is merely a conflict between their wallets and their principles, and their wallets won. Advertising to voters that they're for sale for as little as five grand isn't the best way to win an election, but some Members really are that dumb...." Editorial
One Senator went so far as to file a bill banning anyone who voted for the Vitter amendment from receiving the benefits. Where exactly does Mississippi's Congressional delegation stand on this special treatment for Congress? Congressman Gregg Harper loves to tell Republicans how much he hates Obamacare and we need to stop it. He stood up more than a few times at one particular Republican breakfast held every month and said so. Congressman Palazzo loves to talk about being a real conservative. Same for Nunnelee. Bennie? Lost cause. Our two Republican Senators? Read for yourself. Senator Thad Cochran in 2009:
“I believe the Senate’s legislation, like that which passed the House of Representatives, is flawed and overreaches in the scope of the reforms it is trying to force on the American people and our health care system,” Cochran said.
“We need to reform our nation’s health care system, but this is not reform. It is bad policy for the American people and the long-term finances of our country. It will make health insurance premiums go up. It will cut Medicare by $500 billion. It will force cash-strapped states like Mississippi to expand Medicaid. It will raise taxes on individuals, businesses and the health care industry. Furthermore, it is bad for small businesses,” he said. Article
Senator Roger Wicker in a 2010 statement:
“Even though most of the major provisions of the health care takeover will not go into effect until 2014, Mississippians are already experiencing its harmful effects,” said Wicker. “Once fully implemented, the negative implications will be even more far-reaching. This government takeover is the wrong approach to lowering health care costs, which remain the greatest barrier to care. Earlier this year, I voted to repeal the President’s unpopular health care law. The Senate had an opportunity to show the American people that we are listening by overturning the measure, but the vote failed. I remain committed to repealing it and replacing it with solutions to bring down health care costs.
All but Bennie oppose Obamacare. Got it? Will ruin the economy. Burdens small businesses. Takes away your freedom. Will kill the healthcare system. Moves us closer to European socialism. Blah blah blah. Check out the list of sponsors for each bill:
Senate Bill #1497: Enzi, Michael [R-WY], Heller, Dean [R-NV], Inhofe, James “Jim” [R-OK], Johnson, Ron [R-WI], Lee, Mike [R-UT], Cruz, Ted [R-TX]
House Bill #3076: Rep Amodei, Mark E. [NV-2], Rep Barr, Andy [KY-6], Rep Boustany, Charles W., Jr. [LA-3], Rep Cassidy, Bill [LA-6], Rep Chabot, Steve [OH-1], Rep Collins, Chris [NY-27], Rep Cotton, Tom [AR-4], Rep Daines, Steve [MT], Rep Duncan, Jeff [SC-3], Rep Flores, Bill [TX-17], Rep Gingrey, Phil [GA-11], Rep Gohmert, Louie [TX-1], Rep Jordan, Jim [OH-4], Rep Kingston, Jack [GA-1], Rep Latta, Robert E. [OH-5], Rep Massie, Thomas [KY-4], Rep Meadows, Mark [NC-11], Rep Mulvaney, Mick [SC-5], Rep Rokita, Todd [IN-4], Rep Ross, Dennis A. [FL-15], Rep Rothfus, Keith J. [PA-12], Rep Salmon, Matt [AZ-5], Rep Sanford, Mark [SC-1], Rep Shuster, Bill [PA-9], Rep Simpson, Michael K. [ID-2], Rep Smith, Jason T. [MO-8], Rep Walorski, Jackie [IN-2], Rep Wenstrup, Brad R. [OH-2], Rep Westmoreland, Lynn A. [GA-3], Rep Yoho, Ted S. [FL-3]
Notice any names missing from these lists of sponsors? Cochran, Harper, Nunnelly, Pallazo, and Wicker. They all hate Obamacare. They all want to stop it. They hate it so much they are AWOL when it comes to cashing out on Obamacare for themselves and their employees. How hard is it really to have an aide contact the sponsor or clerk and attach their name to the bill? This is not an issue of being a liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, or even Whole Foods v. Piggly Wiggly. It's simply us versus them. "Them" being the politicians and their lackeys who think they are too good to obey the same laws as the rest of us. "Them" who illegally rewrite laws on the fly if it means they can profit from doing so. Each congressman and senator can reduce his office spending and use his budget to give his employees a contribution to cover health insurance as Senator Tom Coburn has done. However, he is apparently the only true conservative in practice. The law says we, the people, will not pay for special treatment for our overlords and the political class. We are not their subjects and the states are not the provinces of an empire named Washington DC.
The Feeble Five should quit talking about stopping Obamacare and instead start stopping the Obamacare carve outs they will enjoy next week, their personal wallets be damned. Fighting this battle is a winner with both Republicans and Democrats. If there an issue for the Feeble Five to stand and fight on principal, these exemptions are it. However, Mississippians have a long history of being abused by their politicians and subjected to double standards. Such apparently is the case when it comes to Obamacare as this issue shows the true nature of our leaders.
"Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that man behind the tree" is an old slogan. The new slogan of our leaders is "Obamacare you, Obamacare that man behind the tree, just don't Obamacare me. Obamacare everyone but me."
Kingfish note: Now that everyone knows the bill numbers, I am going to call all congressional offices today and tomorrow to see where they stand on these bills. Consider this a heads-up to the press secretaries. Results will be reported.