Republicans in the House and Senate are on fire over the news that the White House will exempt members of Congress and their staff from Obamacare’s exchanges.
One pair of congressmen even have a constitutional amendment that would require members to live under the same laws as every other American, though they said Thursday’s introduction coinciding with the exemption report was just good timing.
“Well, on the very day that Matt Salmon and I introduce a constitutional amendment prohibiting Congress from exempting themselves from the laws that they pass, we get word that the Obama Administration has created an administrative rule that will relieve members of Congress and their staffs from the higher health care costs that the rest of America will bear under the 2010 health care law,” Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) wrote on his Facebook page.
The proposed 28th Amendment to the Constitution reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting the citizens of the United States that does not also apply to the Senators and Representatives.”
DeSantis introduced the amendment with Arizona Republican Matt Salmon, who said it’s needed to ensure that politicians live within the same parameters that they set on the American people.
“A government of the people, by the people, for the people should live under the same rules it passes for the people. It’s that simple,” said Salmon. “That is why this amendment is necessary. How can the American people trust Congress to fix a broken Washington when they don’t even live under the same rules? Washington should live by the same rules as every family and business, and I encourage all Americans to join us in moving this legislation forward.”
DeSantis said the amendment simply affirms the intent of the Founding Fathers: “members of Congress are servants of the people, not a ruling class separate and distinct from the people.”
“Congress cannot be allowed to impose burdens on the American people while relieving its own members of those burdens,” he said. “A 28th amendment is needed to hold Congress accountable and to restore principles of proper constitutional government.”
On the Senate side, David Vitter (R-La.) highlighted an amendment he introduced to the Marketplace Fairness Act in April that would have reiterated that members and their staff must enroll into the Obamacare exchanges and killed a loophole exempting the president, vice president, political appointees and some congressional staff from being forced into the exchange.
“This is exactly why America rightly hates Washington. Obamacare’s a train wreck, even for Congress,” Vitter said today. “So it gets fixed… FOR CONGRESS ONLY. What the flip about fixing it for America?”
“And this behind-closed-doors deal, announced right after Congress is safely away from the crime scene on break, was fully supported by establishment Republicans. When it comes to protecting their own, they find a way to work just beautifully with the Democrats,” he added.
Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) said today that the exemption should add fuel to the drive to repeal Obamacare in its entirety — something the House has tried dozens of times with no movement on the Senate side.
“Once again, the Obama Administration has picked a chosen few for an exemption from Obamacare – this time the very people who wrote the law and then rammed it through the legislative process. We don’t need another loophole for Washington insiders,” Renacci said. “We need to fully repeal this 3,000 page unmitigated disaster and replace it with real, market based reforms that will expand coverage and lower costs. In other words, every American should get a permanent exemption from Obamacare.”
The news comes right before a recess in which Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) are hoping to stoke grass-roots anger over Obamacare to support their goal of defunding the healthcare law in the Sept. 30 continuing resolution.
Republicans are divided over whether such a game plan is even feasible, with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) telling the defunders that they need to focus on chipping away at the massive law’s parts until it’s vulnerable enough to kill.
Some see clear momentum, though, with the administration’s own admission that the employer mandate would need to be delayed another year before it’s ready for implementation.
On Thursday, 39 Republican senators called on the White House to explain why 21 federal agencies with no responsibilities under Obamacare are investing time and money in helping implement the law.
The letter to White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler was led by Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), the senior Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. He was joined by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as well as other GOPs.
“We write to ask for information about the activities being undertaken by twenty or more federal agencies with no responsibilities under the President’s health care law in the implementation and promotion of that law, specifically about what the agencies are doing, what funds the agencies are spending, and what authorities the agencies are using,” states the letter, which came with three spreadsheets that “may have been sent to all government agencies, [and] appear to specifically require agencies to provide information and undertake activities in support of the health care law regardless of their statutory missions and responsibilities.”
Agencies involved in Obamacare promotion include the Departments of Education, Labor, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, and Commerce; the Institute for Museum and Library Services; and the Small Business Administration.
“There is a cost to the taxpayers for each and every one of these actions — particularly changing longstanding forms and notices or possibly adding new unfunded mandates or responsibilities to programs and grants without congressional consent. HHS has requested additional money to implement the health care law, and Congress denied that request,” the GOP senators write. “HHS now appears to be evading Congress’ constitutional power of the purse by using unrelated resources and authorities dedicated to other missions.”
“Furthermore, given that the Administration spent the last several months warning of alleged catastrophe from cutting approximately $85.3 billion out of a $3 trillion budget as part of sequestration, it is particularly surprising that unrelated resources, which previously could not be reduced, are now being used to implement or promote the health care law. It is troubling that taxpayer funds are being used in this way without notice to the Congress by each agency involved.”
The senators asked for all White House correspondence about directing or requesting agencies to work on Obamacare promotion. They want the documents by Aug. 14, another indicator that Obamacare will very much be a hot recess issue.
DeSantis also hopes momentum builds for his amendment, which he calls “an inarguable proposition if you believe in constitutional government.”
“This is astounding. Because Pelosi and Reid could not pass a law to create a special exemption for themselves, the administration is simply creating special rules for Congress by fiat,” the Florida Republican said.
“Will the American people be granted the same relief from skyrocketing health insurance costs that the members of our self-annointed ruling class have granted themselves?”