January 6 2014
Senator Ron Johnson is filing suit today in federal District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin to force Congress to do something distasteful: live under the same Affordable Care Act it passed for the rest of us.
Many of us civilians will be losing health insurance or be forced into higher priced policies that radically affect family budgets. But Congress, having rendered the term “public servant” a quaint anachronism by becoming a privileged caste, doesn’t want to live under the regime they create for the rest of the nation.
So President Obama, who knows that Congress will be more likely to repeal this monstrous law if it has to live under it, worked out a deal so that members and staff receive taxpayer-funded subsidies to alleviate the pain of the Affordable Care Act. As Leona Helmsley once observed of taxes, ObamaCare is for little people. Helmsley got her comeuppance. Will Congress?
It appears that the law is on the side of Senator Johnson, who writes this morning in the Wall Street Journal:
It is clear that this special treatment, via a ruling by the president's Office of Personnel Management, was deliberately excluded in the law. During the drafting, debate and passage of ObamaCare, the issue of how the law should affect members of Congress and their staffs was repeatedly addressed.
Even a cursory reading of the legislative history clearly shows the intent of Congress was to ensure that members and staff would no longer be eligible for their current coverage under the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan.
When the Affordable Care Act was debated in Congress, Johnson recalls, allowing the federal government to make an employer contribution was “explicitly debated” and rejected. Ultimately, the law as written (another quaint sounding term) made members and staffs eligible only for the kinds of income-based subsidies available to other Americans. We pay these folks well, and so income-based subsidies are irrelevant to them.
(Members of Congress) wanted to appear eager to avail themselves of the law's benefits and be more than willing to subject themselves to the exact same rules, regulations and requirements as their constituents.
Eager, that is, until they began to understand what they had actually done to themselves. For instance, by agreeing to go through an exchange they cut themselves off from the option of paying for health care with pretax dollars, the way many Americans will continue to do through employer-supplied plans. That's when they went running to President Obama for relief.
Through a “convoluted ruling," the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) “essentially declared the federal government a small employer—magically qualifying members of Congress for coverage through a Small Business Health Options Program, exchanges where employers can buy insurance for their employees.”
Senator Johnson argues that, in making this ruling, the OPM exceeded its statutory jurisdiction and legal authority (other terms that have become quaint in the Obama era).
The legal basis for our lawsuit (which I will file with a staff member, Brooke Ericson, as the other plaintiff) includes the fact that the OPM ruling forces me, as a member of Congress, to engage in activity that I believe violates the law. It also potentially alienates members of Congress from their constituents, since those constituents are witnessing members of Congress blatantly giving themselves and their staff special treatment.
This is a very important lawsuit. In addition to the legal issues Senator Johnson notes, it will test whether we now have a Congress that has become a new ruling class that passes laws that only pertain to the peons. Johnson is getting at the heart of what makes a democracy a democracy.