Does Congress’ ObamaCare waiver fund abortion coverage?

posted at 2:01 pm on August 16, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

So says Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who authored statutes explicitly to stop federal funds from being used to pay for abortion coverage.  The recent extra-constitutional step from the Obama administration to keep Congress from experiencing the same consequences of ObamaCare that other employers face — despite another statute included in the ACA that explicitly requires Congress to do so — has vague enough language that the federal government might be picking up the tab for abortion coverage for Capitol Hill employees:

Last week, the White House Office of Personnel Management said the government would keep paying its share of premiums for lawmakers and affected staffers who must leave the federal employee health care system by Jan. 1. That eased a major anxiety for several thousand staffers accustomed to getting the same benefits as other federal employees.

But the proposed regulation did not explicitly address abortion coverage. Under the health care law, insurance plans in the new markets may cover abortion unless a state passes a law prohibiting them from doing so. Plans offering coverage for abortion, however, may not use federal funds to pay for it and must collect a separate premium from enrollees. Federal tax credits to help the uninsured afford coverage must also be kept apart.

Abortion opponents say the proposal from the personnel office would circumvent a longstanding law that bars the use of taxpayer funds for “administrative expenses in connection with any health plan under the federal employees health benefits program which provides any benefits or coverage for abortions.” Unlike many private corporate plans, federal employee plans only cover abortions in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.

“Under this scheme (the government) will be paying the administrative costs,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., author of abortion funding ban for federal employee plans. “It’s a radical deviation and departure from current federal law, and it’s not for all federal employees, but for a subset: Congress. Us.”

That’s really the most objectionable part of this attempt to get around the clear meaning of the statute. The ACA screws up plenty of benefit plans and compensation strategies for employers in the private sector. Why should Congress exempt itself from those consequences?  Senator Chuck Grassley added those statutes explicitly to force Congress to suffer from the same issues it created for everyone else, but the White House doesn’t want any momentum to build in Congress for delaying or significantly altering the ObamaCare scheme.  Instead of going to Congress to change this part of the ACA — which would have been a humiliating exercise in sheer hypocrisy, and likely wouldn’t have gone far because of it — Obama simply decreed that Congress didn’t have to comply with the law at all.

But will this lead to taxpayer funding of abortions for the governing class?  That would be bitterly ironic, since federal funds can’t go to abortions for anyone else (and for damned good reasons, too).  Unfortunately, as the AP’s Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar notes, ObamaCare and other federal statutes are so arcane that it is almost impossible to tell:

“This goes into a legal thicket the complexity of which I can’t begin to fathom,” said Walton Francis, lead author of an annual guide to federal health benefits. “It would take lawyers hours to decipher the interrelationship between these statutes, and they would probably come to different conclusions.”

It’s even legally murky whether the government can continue to pay its regular share of the premiums for lawmakers and staffers, he added.

It’s only murky if one believes that the President and Congress can ignore statutory law that they find inconvenient, even when it’s the law they pushed themselves.  The rational action at this point would be to bring the whole mess to a halt, but thanks to the removal of the disincentive that Grassley explicitly included, don’t expect Democrats in the Senate to allow that.

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I’m old enough to remember when Presidents were supposed to follow the law.

Chris of Rights on August 16, 2013 at 2:07 PM

The Rs are as happy as the Ds.

That all of them and their aids are exempt from obama’care’ is enough to throw all out in 2014, with no exceptions.

If they don’t want to live under the laws they shove onto you, then go and burn, every one and all your aids. NO one cares if you want to leave your cushiony jobs in DC. Where would you all go anyway? Egypt is what you all deserve.

Schadenfreude on August 16, 2013 at 2:09 PM

This is going to do wonders for my Orville Redenbacher stock.

CurtZHP on August 16, 2013 at 2:09 PM

The secret is that no one in DC has any clue about what’s going on or how to run a government. It’s the Wizard of Oz on steroids.

SirGawain on August 16, 2013 at 2:09 PM

That’s caudillo talk. That’s banana republic stuff. In this country, the president is required to win the consent of Congress first.

Schadenfreude on August 16, 2013 at 2:10 PM

Obama simply decreed that Congress didn’t have to comply with the law at all.

obama won like Putin and Chavez, and of late like Mugabe.

He is as legitimate as Mugabe.

Welcome to the Zimbabwean USA!

Schadenfreude on August 16, 2013 at 2:12 PM

1/2 off on Abortion Sundays!

Just bring in the coupon and get in line at the Gossnel Clinic, 666 Democrat Drive, coming soon to a city near you…

patman77 on August 16, 2013 at 2:15 PM

obama’care’ should always be spelled with single quotes.

It is never “care” and “affordable”.

“You lie” were the truest words ever spoken about obama, aka Mugabe.

Schadenfreude on August 16, 2013 at 2:16 PM

Aborting congress members?

Maybe we should give this some consideration.

AndrewsDad on August 16, 2013 at 2:23 PM

Pls. listen beyond the long pause. You won’t be sorry.

Very sad and very true!

Schadenfreude on August 16, 2013 at 2:29 PM

Most of these people would not qualify for ANY SUBSIDIES on the exchanges if they were just peons like us.

Forget about abortion, why should a Congressperson drawing a $174,500 salary or a staffer with an average salary of $100,000 get ANY subsidy whatsoever?

In the ‘real world,’ income over $88,000 bars a person from getting a subsidy.

Resist We Much on August 16, 2013 at 2:38 PM

Rule of law elites.

We might as well have stuck with George III.

gwelf on August 16, 2013 at 2:41 PM

Obama simply decreed that Congress didn’t have to comply with the law at all.

Hey, why not? It’s not like it’s the first time he’s done something like this. Obama has a habit of ignoring laws that he doesn’t like, or doesn’t agree with, or which pose some political inconvenience to him.

Where does he get the authority to ignore federal law prohibiting illegal aliens from receiving food stamps? He pulls it out of his ass. Where does he get the authority to order DHS to release thousands of imprisoned illegal alien criminals (many of them violent) back into U.S. communities? He pulls it out of his ass.

L’etat, c’est Obama.

AZCoyote on August 16, 2013 at 2:43 PM

Any more than the explicit O-Care funding paid to Planned Parenthood does? Wouldn’t that be prohibited as well?

Pffft, please. Why do people pretend that the law applies to anyone but the plebes anymore?

Midas on August 16, 2013 at 2:47 PM

Rep Trey Goudy’s IRS recommendation can apply to the entire Federal mess they call the government:

“START OVER”.

can_con on August 16, 2013 at 3:07 PM

I wish the congress would stop pretending to care. That schtick is getting old. Yet, they keep funding it and exempting themselves.

cep on August 16, 2013 at 3:26 PM

I think, at some point, I’ve paid enough in taxes.

I served my county in the military, I’ve paid income taxes since the age of 15, I’ve never taken a dime in government assistance except for a short 3 month span of unemployment.

I’ve paid almost a million dollars in state and federal taxes in the last 15 years alone and have absolutely no representation at any level.

Why is one single dime of taxpayer money going to planned parenthood?

As Thomas Jefferson said, “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical”

Ditkaca on August 16, 2013 at 3:40 PM

Pitchforks for sale here, cheap!

cornbred on August 16, 2013 at 3:51 PM

Most of these people would not qualify for ANY SUBSIDIES on the exchanges if they were just peons like us.

Forget about abortion, why should a Congressperson drawing a $174,500 salary or a staffer with an average salary of $100,000 get ANY subsidy whatsoever?

In the ‘real world,’ income over $88,000 bars a person from getting a subsidy.

Resist We Much on August 16, 2013 at 2:38 PM

To further expand the point, assuming these are individual exchanges, there is no employer subsidy on the individual exchange, much less the 75% subsidy the Congresscritters are getting. Even the small-business exchanges won’t see the employer kicking in 75% even with the 8%-of-salary max employee contribution limit that’s also part of PlaceboCare.

Oh yeah – that $88K cutoff for a subsidy is somewhere around $45K for singles.

Steve Eggleston on August 16, 2013 at 4:18 PM

Pitchforks for sale here, cheap!

cornbred on August 16, 2013 at 3:51 PM

How much for the torch?

Steve Eggleston on August 16, 2013 at 4:18 PM

who must leave the federal employee health care system by Jan. 1. That eased a major anxiety for several thousand staffers accustomed to getting the same benefits as other federal employees.

So all federal employees are not subject to Obamacare? I must have missed that one. “Obamacare for thee, adequate healthcare for me.”

mdenis39 on August 16, 2013 at 7:06 PM

Pitchforks for sale here, cheap!

cornbred on August 16, 2013 at 3:51 PM

How much for the torch?

Steve Eggleston on August 16, 2013 at 4:18 PM

…tar?…feathers?

KOOLAID2 on August 16, 2013 at 9:17 PM