With a single new tweet, President Trump set official Washington abuzz Saturday afternoon: “If a new Health Care Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for members of Congress will end very soon!”
While most Democrats and the media - but I repeat myself - wailed publicly about the first phrase of that tweet, reading it to mean the president was threatening to cut off the billions of dollars in illegal “cost-sharing reduction” payments to insurance companies, many members of Congress of both parties recognized the more ominous implied threat inherent in the second phrase - an end to Congress’ illegal gravy train of subsidies to pay for their health care premiums.
The president is referring, of course, to the illegal employer subsidies - valued at roughly $6,000 for an individual policy, and $12,000 for a family policy - paid to the approximately 12,000 members and staff who purchase their health care insurance on the District of Columbia small business exchange.
These subsidy payments are a direct violation of not just the spirit, but the letter of the Affordable Care Act, which required Members and their staffs to leave their generous Federal Employee Health Benefit Program plans and instead purchase their health insurance through the Obamacare exchanges.
They receive these subsidy payments only as the result of a conspiracy and a subterfuge - acting at the behest of congressional leaders of both parties and then-President Obama, two unknown congressional officials fraudulently signed paperwork declaring Congress to be a “small business” that employs fewer than 50 people, so members of Congress and their staffs could purchase their insurance on the D.C. small business exchange (where employers are allowed to provide a subsidy toward the purchase of insurance), rather than an individual exchange (where subsidy payments are not allowed).
This subterfuge exempts Congress and its staff from being treated under the law the way everyone else in the country who is required to purchase insurance on the Obamacare exchanges is treated.
In this area, Congress, working with then-President Obama, has literally set itself above the law. In this sense, it has exempted itself from the law.
In my years of activism with the tea party, I can think of no other issue that so infuriates grassroots activists.
In fact, in my years of activism with the tea party, I can think of no better issue that unites liberals, moderates, and conservatives. We may disagree about Obamacare - but we all agree that this illegal exemption is wrong.
What makes America different from every other country, we believe, is that in America, no one is above the law. Yet here, on this most odious of laws, Congress and President Obama acted in concert to set two different standards of treatment - Congress and its staff would be exempt from what was required of them under the law, while everyone else would be held to a higher (and more expensive) standard.
In my years of activism with the tea party, I can think of no other issue on which there have been so many lies told by members of Congress and their staffs.
Tea Party Patriots activists have been calling congressional offices for years, inquiring as to whether or not individual members have followed the letter of the law. They have regularly been told it is “untrue” that Congress is exempt from the law, that this entire line of reasoning is “crazy,” “made up,” “lies,” etc.
But now President Trump is considering whether or not he should, with a simple directive to the Office of Personnel Management, overturn the illegal special exemption. And Tea Party Patriots supporters are calling the White House at (202) 456-1414 and urging the president to remove Congress’ illegal special exemption. Many are getting full mailboxes when they make phone calls so in addition to the calls, they are leaving emails through whitehouse.gov/contact.
Based on his Saturday tweet, President Trump is thinking of overturning the illegal special exemption as an added inducement to Congress, so that they’ll be more personally incentivized to continue working to repeal Obamacare.
That’s a fine corollary benefit of overturning the illegal exemption. If members of Congress truly won’t see the light until they feel the heat, making them pay for their healthcare the way the rest of those required to purchase insurance on the individual exchanges do would certainly raise the temperature.
But, more importantly, the president should repeal that illegal special exemption, simply on rule of law grounds, to remove Congress’ distinction as a class above the regular citizenry.
And he should remove that exemption now, effective as soon as possible, so that even if Congress were somehow to find a way to move a repeal bill to his desk that contained a two- or three-year phase-out of Obamacare, members of Congress and their staffs would have to give up their illegal special exemption now and ride out the next two or three years as they should have been all along.
This is not a hard one for the president. He has the power to erase Congress’ special treatment, and put Congress back on the same level as the rest of America. He doesn’t need congressional action; he can do it himself.
And he should.