Dynamite stuff from Brendan Bordelon at NRO. Remember the Grassley Amendment? That’s the provision that ended up being tacked onto ObamaCare before it passed in 2010 requiring members of Congress and their staffs to sign up for coverage on an exchange. If the public had to live with this crappy law, Grassley and his supporters insisted, then their representatives should have to as well. Problem is, coverage from an exchange meant that members and higher-compensated staffers would no longer be eligible for the insurance subsidies they got under their previous government coverage. That’s a big hit financially for an aide who’s making, say, $95,000 per year but could be making many times that amount as a lobbyist. Fearful of a “brain drain” on the Hill, Congress set to work trying to find a way to weasel out of Grassley’s amendment and let staffers keep their subsidies. The solution, with White House support, was to have Congress register with the D.C. ObamaCare exchange as … a small business, which would by law allow the staffer to continue to receive his old subsidies. Problem is, a “small business” is defined as one with fewer than 50 employees. That ain’t Congress. So how on earth could they qualify?
Read Bordelon’s piece, which must be the first great suspense story ever told about a government insurance application. Here’s a taste of what David Vitter, chairman of the Senate’s Small Business Committee, found when he asked to see Congress’s application to the D.C. exchange.
The application said Congress employed just 45 people. Names were faked; one employee was listed as “First Last,” another simply as “Congress.” To Small Business Committee chairman David Vitter, who has fought for years against the Obamacare exemption, it was clear that someone in Congress had falsified the document in order to make lawmakers and their staff eligible for taxpayer subsidies provided under the exchange for small-business employees.
But until Vitter got a green light from the Small Business Committee to subpoena the unredacted application from the District of Columbia health exchange, it would be impossible to determine who in Congress gave it a stamp of approval.
Who ordered the fraudulent health exchange application? The good news is, all it would take to subpoena the document is a majority vote of Vitter’s committee — a committee controlled by Republicans, of course. The nine Democratic members all voted against the subpoena, naturally, but the 10 GOP members could simply outvote them and issue it. Except … that’s not what happened. When Vitter asked committee member Rand Paul, scourge of ObamaCare and stalwart supporter of big-government accountability, if he’d be voting for the subpoena, he received a mysterious thumbs down.
Senior committee aides say that Rand Paul’s staff didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail requesting the senator’s consent and, when they did, they refused to provide it. When Vitter attempted to set up a member-to-member meeting, his overtures were ignored or put off. Paul’s policy staff refused to take a meeting. When Vitter tried to confront Paul on the Senate floor, they say, the Kentucky senator skirted the issue…
“The answers he has given do not make sense,” Cannon says of Paul. “And when someone with his principles does something that is so obviously against his principles, and does not give an adequate explanation, you begin to think that politics is afoot. It would have to be someone very powerful that made him a powerful pitch — or threat — to keep him from doing this.”
Republicans on the committee ended up voting 5-5 on the subpoena; combined with the nine Democratic no’s, it was 5-14 against. According to Bordelon’s sources, though, the only reason the GOP vote split evenly was because the Republican leadership wanted to provide Paul with cover in his opposition. So they twisted arms and got Mike Enzi, James Risch, Kelly Ayotte, and Deb Fischer to also vote no, allowing Paul to hide in a (small) crowd. “The amount of blood that McConnell and Paul spilled to prevent [the subpoena] from happening makes me wonder [if] maybe that isn’t all that there is to it,” one committee staffer told Bordelon. Read the rest, seriously.
Obvious question: Why would Paul allow himself to get wrapped up in this? He’s running for president as the antidote to Washington business-as-usual, the sort of libertarian maverick who’d never play slimy anti-transparency games with the establishment to keep taxpayer money flowing fraudulently to government workers — to pay for ObamaCare, no less. One theory is that it’s his pal Mitch McConnell, not Paul himself, who wants to block the subpoena; McConnell needed votes on the committee so he called in a favor from Rand. But that makes no sense when you realize that the final vote was 5-14. McConnell could have freed Rand to vote yes and the subpoena still would have failed badly, 6-13. Paul voted no because he wanted to vote no. But why? And why would he do it knowing that Marco Rubio, his 2016 rival, is also a member of the committee and voted yes? If this story blows up, Rubio’s going to club Paul relentlessly with it on the trail. I don’t get it.
Between this and the Corker Iran-deal betrayal, the new Senate majority’s off to a rip-roaring good start on “good governance,” huh?