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EDITORIAL: Congress gets a pass

The president grants a special Obamacare deal

- - Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Everyone's dying to get off Obamacare. Public and private unions want nothing to do with it. Nancy Pelosi finagled waivers for dozens of her favorite restaurants in San Francisco. Now, President Obama will let Congress off the hook.

Under heavy pressure from the Democratic leaders, the White House agreed to ignore what the law says and require taxpayers to subsidize coverage for congressional employees who buy policies on the exchanges scheduled to open in less than two months. Asking Congress to live under the same laws it imposes on the rest of us is too much to ask. Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, did his best during the Obamacare debates to require members of Congress and their staffs to experience Obamacare in full, to enroll in health insurance exchanges like everyone else.

As the implementation deadline approached, members of Congress howled at the prospect of losing their Cadillac health care. Legislative assistants, schedulers and press secretaries were horrified at the prospect of paying the full cost of insurance out of their own pockets — as most Americans do — and stamped their feet in protest. Obamacare supporters and foes alike revolted at the very idea of paying $5,000 a year for an individual plan and $11,000 for family coverage, as set out in the most popular exchange plans.

Anyone else caught in such a situation could only expect to hear, "tough luck." When the Founders debated the Constitution in 1787, they understood the importance of regularly sending members of Congress home "to that mass from which they were at first taken." They would get a lesson in how difficult life could be living under carelessly drafted statutes. Exempting the legislative branch from inconvenient features of a very inconvenient health care law only encourages Congress to write more bad laws. "In free governments, the rulers are the servants," said Ben Franklin, "and the people their superiors and sovereigns. For the former therefore to return among the latter was not to degrade, but to promote them." The problems of ordinary Americans should be fixed before addressing the suffering on Capitol Hill.

Franklin's "superiors and sovereigns" are learning about "degrading." Georgians, for example, heard their state insurance commissioner announce last week that premiums would increase up to 198 percent under Obamacare.

The only relief House Republicans can offer is another bill (40 and counting so far) defunding Obamacare. It's the correct gesture to make, but it's only a gesture because the president has threatened to veto it if it gets through both House and Senate. The pressure is off Congress to make a fuss now that it can keep its special deal.

The rest of us remain in suspense. Americans for Prosperity has aired a second round of television commercials highlighting the uncertainty of the government practicing medicine, and the focus is on the family physician. "Will my time be spent navigating a complicated system," asks Dr. Mary Ellen Gallagher, "or helping people get well?"

Instead of offering peace of mind to Congress, the politicians and the president must realize that it's the people — the "superiors and sovereigns" — who deserve an Obamacare waiver. If this scheme can't be fairly applied to everyone, it shouldn't be applied at all.

The Washington Times