One of the Republican promises in the 1994 congressional campaign, included in the “Contract With America,” was to force Congress to live under the laws it imposes on everyone else. The Congressional Accountability Act followed, eliminating a number of major exemptions in the hope that lawmakers would be less likely to enact burdensome laws if they were personally affronted by them.
As the reality of Obamacare sinks in on Congress, members and their staffs are looking for a way to get out of the health insurance exchanges mandated by the law. Politico, the Capitol Hill daily, reports that the obstacle for Democrats is that unless the insurance premiums of politicians and their aides are subsidized by their employers (that would be you and me, the taxpayers), they could be hit with thousands of dollars in new, out-of-pocket health care expenses.
This is a surprise only to Nancy Pelosi and those who haven’t been paying attention. “We’ve been saying this since Day One,” Sen. Mitch McConnell explained on Thursday. The Republican leader wants the entire country freed from the expensive mandate, not just lawmakers. “Only now are Washington Democrats coming around to the reality of what they passed,” he said. “I hope more will join us in repealing it in its entirety, root and branch.”
We’ve come a long way from the days when President Obama toured the country, vowing that Obamacare would “cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year.” Forget about cost savings. The IRS now estimates that the least expensive of the government-sanctioned health plans will cost the average family of four $20,000 a year — an increase of about $4,000. The Heritage Foundation’s state-by-state estimates of likely premium increases range from a minimum of 19 percent in Colorado and New Hampshire to as much as 106 percent in Ohio and four other states.
This puts Republicans in an interesting position. They can abide by their Contract principle and block any exemption for the legislative branch. There’s something inherently offensive about politicians who vote to elevate themselves above the rabble by granting themselves special privileges. The GOP might see political advantage in suffering the consequences of government-run health care along with the rest of the country. Once Democratic lawmakers feel the lash of Obamacare firsthand, they might become more open to repealing Obamacare.
But that’s probably wishful thinking. Democrats enacted the law in the face of public-opinion polls showing it to be wildly unpopular; Democrats won’t be easily persuaded to admit they were colossally wrong. As long as Mr. Obama holds the veto pen, it’s unrealistic to expect a sufficient number of Democrats to abandon the party line, no matter how much more they’ll have to spend out of their own pockets.
The alternative is for the Republicans to allow Democrats to put the lie to every promise they made about how Obamacare would make things “all better.” The hypocrisy of politicians exempting themselves is tailor-made for campaign commercials, late-night comics and newspaper punditry.
Obamacare won’t be repealed unless voters insist on it at the ballot box, which they failed to do at first opportunity last November. Republicans still must win more hearts and minds (and wallets) on the health care issue. They will have an easier time of it if they can point out that even Democrats aren’t buying what Democrats are selling.
The Washington Times