One easy way to tell what kind of Speaker Kevin McCarthy or Congressman Dan Webster — or any new aspirant — would be is to ask them a simple question: Would you call an immediate, on the record, vote on repealing the special exemption Congress granted itself from Obamacare?
This idea, which comes from conservative activist Heather Higgins, would make clear whether the candidate for Speaker will pursue the old ways or offer a new departure.
If the House acts, pressure will build for Senate action as well.
If you’ll recall, Obamacare originally included an amendment by Sen. David Vitter (R-La) requiring members of Congress to be covered by the law’s provision. When Congress balked, the Obama Administration came to the rescue when the federal Office of Personnel Management decided that the more than 12,000 Congressional members and staff qualify as a small business able to purchase their health care from the DC Small Business Exchange.
The key is their decision to continue to pay for three-quarters of the health care premiums for members of Congress and most of their staff. This subsidy is allowed despite the overall provision of Obamacare limiting subsidies to those whose income is less than four times the poverty level — about $80,000. With their base salaries of $174,000, members of the House and the Senate would not normally qualify. But the special ruling by the Office of Personnel Management allows them to continue to get the subsidy nonetheless.
Obama chose to go through a federal agency ruling to extend the benefit precisely so his allies in Congress, eager for the subsidy, would not have to cast on-the-record votes in favor. Now, a new Speaker and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can force them to vote on the subsidy (or on closure in the Senate), putting them on record on this key issue.
Voters resent the special cut out the government gives members of Congress and their staffs. Now we can force action to cut it off … and see what the candidates for Speaker are made of.
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