U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) held a hearing in a Judiciary subcommittee Thursday to examine the Department of Treasury’s rulemaking that Republicans say disregarded the text of the law and illegally enabled the IRS to provide federal Obamacare subsidies to millions of Americans. Sen. Cruz invited Treasury officials to the hearing, but they refused to attend.
The hearing thus began with an empty row of seats facing Cruz because the witnesses failed to appear.
According to National Journal, the audience filled nearly every seat in the room, “drawn by the hearing’s subject: the writing of the Obamacare subsidy rule, a topic that is also in a roundabout way currently under consideration by the Supreme Court.”
The Treasury Department had told Cruz last week that it wouldn’t be sending any witnesses, so the Texas Republican wasn’t surprised. The empty table was theater, and Cruz took advantage of the opportunity, railing against the Affordable Care Act and the administration for not sending the requested Treasury officials, a snub which he called “the height of arrogance.”
“It’s a symbol for how little regard the Obama administration has for the American people,” Cruz said. “By their absence, I take it the administration is saying they are not subject to oversight.”
He continued, “This is fundamentally about the question of whether the federal government can impose billions of dollars of taxes upon millions of Americans directly contrary to the text of federal law. It is likewise about whether the federal government can spend billions of dollars explicitly prohibited by federal law. If the answer to both of those questions is yes, if the Administration’s interpretation is acceded to, it makes the entire constitutional law-making function superfluous.”
Sen. Cruz concluded, “These penalties coming from the individual mandate disproportionally hurt the most vulnerable among us. The people being hurt by these illegal taxes… are young people, they are single moms, they are Hispanics, they are African Americans, that are suddenly finding a big tax bill that is due from an administration that is ignoring and violating federal law to extract illegal taxes.”
Though the first panel failed to attend, the second panel consisted of the following legal and health care experts: Michael A. Carvin, partner at Jones Day; Michael F. Cannon, Director of Health Policy Studies at the Cato Institute; Andy Grewal, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Iowa College of Law; Elizabeth B. Wydra, Chief Counsel of the Constitutional Accountability Center; and Robert N. Weiner, partner at Arnold & Porter LLP.
Last week, Sen. Cruz sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew regarding the department’s refusal to supply key witnesses for the hearing and stating that he may have “no choice but to pursue other options, including compulsory process.”
Sen. Cruz also suggested that Treasury Department operatives meddled with the IRS interpretation of the Affordable Care Act to make sure more Americans could get the subsidized health insurance.
“The Obama administration is trying to impose on you, personally, thousands of dollars in penalties that are contrary to law,” said Cruz, who suggested the IRS knew how to enforce the law before “political operatives” from the Treasury overruled them.