Just when you think Washington politics couldn’t get dirtier, Congress finds a new low. To hold onto their illegal Obamacare subsidy that no other American earning $174,000 could get, members of Congress are trying to silence the subsidy’s chief critic, Sen. David Vitters, by dredging up a 2007 unproven accusation that Vitters patronized a prostitute before being elected to the Senate.
Shockingly, the cabal also proposes that any member of Congress who votes for Vitter’s proposal would be ineligible for the subsidy if Vitter fails and the subsidy stays. Has anyone in Congress read the Constitution? You can’t make a lawmaker’s future remuneration dependent on how he votes.
At the center of this tawdry cabal are none other than the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, Barbara Boxer and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D. Nevada).
Here are the facts behind the stench:
The Affordable Care Act Sect. 1312(d) requires that members of Congress and their staffs enroll in the health plans offered on the exchanges. The thinking behind that provision is that what’s good enough for the public ought to be good enough for Congress. It sounded good in 2010, when the law was enacted, but now politicians are getting cold feet.
Until now, members of Congress received a 75 percent subsidy funded by taxpayers to enroll in the Federal Health Benefits Program. Signing up for Obamacare will cost them thousands of dollars because the law does not entitle anyone earning $174,000 (base salary for Congress) to get a subsidy. Yikes! Congress doesn’t think the Affordable Care Act is affordable for them.
Just before Congress’ August recess, Republican and Democratic leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, pressed President Obama to do something. Ignoring the fact that the president has no constitutional authority to change the law and arrange for a subsidy that will cost taxpayers at least $55 million a year, members of Congress put their self-interest first.
The president complied and weaseled an illegal arrangement with the Office of Personnel Management to award members of Congress and their staff a 75 percent subsidy to pay for their own Obamacare health plans. It’s in a new official OPM ruling.
Shockingly, there’s still a handful of lawmakers with scruples. Vitters, along with Sens. Mike Enzi, Ron Johnson Jim Inhofe and Mike Lee held up a Senate vote last week on an unrelated energy bill by trying to attach an amendment eliminating Congress’s Obamacare subsidy. In the House, Rep. Ron DeSantis offered the same measure.
“This legislation blows the whistle on this all-too-familiar Washington game of putting the ruling class first,” said DeSantis.
Don’t depend on the subsidy’s supporters to defend it on the merits. There are none. Instead, according to draft legislation obtained by Politico, Democrats are weighing whether to eliminate health care subsidies for lawmakers for whom there is “probable cause” that they patronized prostitutes, or to deny the subsidy to lawmakers who vote for Vitter’s amendment.
“Harry Reid is acting like an old-time Vegas mafia thug, and a desperate one at that,” Vitter said in a statement. “This just shows how far Washington insiders will go to protect their special Obamacare exemption.”
These goings-on help to explain why Congress’s job approval rating is 11 percent approve, versus 75 percent disapprove (Fox 9/6 to 9/8).
Congress already lavishes itself with perks most Americans would find disgusting: private elevators, private gyms, free parking at airports and large office budgets. When a member or former member dies, even of old age, the family is awarded the member’s salary for a year. But when a member of our armed services dies in battle, that family gets far less.
The lesson: Congress looks out for itself, not for us. It’s time to clean the Augean stables. The Election Day 2014 is coming none too soon.
Betsy McCaughey is a former Lt. governor of New York and the author of “Beating Obamacare.”