Earlier this year, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were apparently visited by the creeping realization that they, too, would be subjected to the incoming ‘benefits’ of ObamaCare, just like the common people they supposedly serve. Detecting a pending and rather inconvenient incentive for lower-level staffers to seek other jobs and for older staffers to retire when their insurance would suddenly lose its traditional heavy subsidization by the federal government and they were hit with perhaps thousands of dollars in new costs, lawmakers began to work ever so quietly with the White House on a niche fix for their pesky problem. The Obama administration very obligingly found a way to implement one unilaterally, and did so during the height of summertime political insouciance by having the Office of Personnel Management rule that the government can indeed continue to make a contribution to the health care premiums of lawmakers and their aides.
Kimberley Strassel at the WSJ recently argued that the GOP should come out swinging against this showcase example of specially interested political elitism, and very publicly force Democrats to either live completely with the law they claim to adore so much or else offer similar relief to all Americans:
This deal ought to have led to a wild GOP protest, both on philosophical and legal grounds. Instead, there has been nary a peep of complaint. …
Few things infuriate Americans more than special privileges for Washington. The public could not care less that insurance hikes might lead to a Washington “brain drain.” (Most would view that as progress.) Americans scrabbling for work, struggling to pay bills and facing soaring insurance premiums are not sympathetic to congressional complaints that the loss of their subsidies is unfair. As word has spread about the White House fix, a bipartisan fury has started to build at town-hall meetings, at rallies, and in letters and phone calls to Congress.
With a little fortitude, the GOP still has the opportunity to be on the right side of public opinion. The White House’s unilateral bailout is a tailor-made opportunity for the GOP to highlight, yet again, the administration’s unequal application of its flawed health law: waivers for Democratic union buddies, exemptions for big business, and now a special handout to Mr. Obama’s political class.
Fortunately, there has in fact been a peep about the situation — and it certainly isn’t coming from the Democrats. Various Republicans in both the House and Senate have been working to make a bigger issue out of Congress’s outrageously hypocritical ObamaCare exemption, and now that Congress is back, there’s some legislation in order. Via the Washington Times:
Rep. Phil Gingrey, Georgia Republican, introduced a bill Tuesday that would reverse the Obama administration’s decision to let members of Congress and their staffs retain an employer subsidy that will pay for the lion’s share of their health premiums even as they enter new health exchanges tied to Obamacare.
Mr. Gingrey is part of a large chorus of Republican critics who say the Office of Personnel Management decided to “exempt” Congress from the brunt of the Affordable Care Act, since everyday Americans on the exchanges can only get less generous subsidies and no employer-based help.
“This is yet another example of the Obama administration changing the law for political gain,” Mr. Gingrey said. “This carve-out is unfair to the American people and must be reversed.”
Whether or not enough Republicans will be willing to sign on to really get this thing rolling is still an open question, but I agree with Kimberley Strassel that, handled correctly, this could turn into a powerful political weapon. Forcing Democrats to daily and publicly justify why they shouldn’t have to live with the full consequences of ObamaCare, but their constituents should? Brilliant.