Did Senate Republicans Collude in Fraud to Exempt Themselves from Obamacare?

May 8, 2015

This kind of shady back-room dealing sounds like something out of House of Cards.

Conservative Review’s Nate Madden and National Review Online’s Brendan Bordelon have been doing some old-fashioned investigative journalism.  Here’s the background:  Under Obamacare, if Congress had to get health insurance through a government “exchange” like ordinary Americans, it would mean

giving up government-subsidized health-care contributions of between $5,000 and $10,000 per person.  The White House scrambled to find a way to allow congressional employees to keep those subsidies. In Washington, D.C., only the small-business exchange allowed them to do so. After secret meetings with House speaker John Boehner in 2013, President Obama instructed the Office of Personnel Management to allow Congress to file for classification as a small business, despite the fact that the law defines a small business as having no more than 50 employees and the House and Senate together employ tens of thousands.

The application was clearly a lie.

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. When Vitter asked Republicans on his committee to approve the subpoena, however, he was unexpectedly stonewalled.

With nine Democrats on the committee lined up against the proposal, the chairman needed the support of all ten Republicans to issue the subpoena. But, though it seems an issue tailor-made for the tea-party star and Republican presidential candidate, Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) refused to lend his support.

Nine of the ten Republicans on the committee immediately agreed, in e-mails to Senator Vitter, to support his subpoena, but Senator Paul was first silent, then evasive, then disingenuous.  (His staff say he supports a “constitutional amendment to prohibit Congress from passing any law that exempts themselves. Senator Paul prefers this option over a partisan cross-examination of Congressional staff.”)

“The answers he has given do not make sense,” [says Cato’s Michael Cannon.] “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.”

Maybe it’s not as bad as it sounds.  Maybe it’s nothing like on TV.  But if not, the senators had better start explaining what did happen.  When you’re standing there holding a smoking gun, the presumption is no longer on your side.

Four of the Republican senators who had told Vitter they would support the subpoena then switched and voted against it—Mike Enzi, James Risch, Kelly Ayotte, and Deb Fischer.

Enzi was one of the original sponsors of Vitter’s 2013 amendment to end the congressional Obamacare exemption, but his press secretary tells National Review he felt the probe “could inadvertently target staff who simply completed paperwork as part of their job.” He insists that Enzi “made up his own mind.” Risch, Ayotte, and Fischer declined to comment.

A spokesman for South Carolina senator Tim Scott, who voted for the subpoena, says that nobody lobbied him one way or the other, while a spokesman for Florida senator Marco Rubio, who also voted in favor of the measure, declined to comment.

I hope serious journalists will continue to ask questions until we get answers—especially from people like Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, who are asking us to trust them with the country.  Who will secretly have their ear or a secret threat to hold over them when they’re in the White House?

Update (May 8th, 2015): Hot Air is also on it.

Read Bordelon’s piece, which must be the first great suspense story ever told about a government insurance application.


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