Ed­i­to­ri­als: A mod­est sug­ges­tion to move Congress

The pres­i­dent could can­cel con­gres­sional sweet­heart sub­si­dies for Oba­macare

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY -

Don­ald Trump, like a lot of Repub­li­cans, is might­ily dis­ap­pointed with the Free­dom Cau­cus for block­ing re­peal of Oba­macare, so he has gone to war with the cau­cus and thinks he can per­suade some Democrats to help him re­peal Barack Obama’s sig­na­ture “ac­com­plish­ment.” He will learn to his sor­row that this is a recipe for more dis­ap­point­ment. Democrats don’t do com­poromise.

There’s ac­tu­ally a much eas­ier way to per­suade Congress to get crack­ing on re­peal­ing and re­plac­ing Oba­macare. He can do it with an ex­ec­u­tive or­der. He could di­rect the Of­fice of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment (OPM) to can­cel a cer­tain con­gres­sional ex­emp­tion from Oba­macare — it’s prob­a­bly il­le­gal, any­way — and this would re­quire sen­a­tors, rep­re­sen­ta­tives and their staffs to live with the rest of us with­out the gen­er­ous pre­mium sub­si­dies mem­bers of Congress now re­ceive. Such sub­si­dies range from $5,000 to $12,000.

The pres­i­dent could fur­ther di­rect OPM to elim­i­nate the sub­si­dies on a date cer­tain, per­haps Oct. 1, the be­gin­ning of the new fis­cal year. He would see that Congress does not have to move with the speed of mo­lasses in Jan­uary. Nancy Pelosi might even hurry the mo­lasses along. Mem­bers of Congress are fond of talk­ing about every­one feel­ing pain to­gethr, so it’s only fair to them to make sure they get their share.

But they’re only hu­man, and de­spite what a chal­lenger may say when he’s cam­paign­ing to dis­place an old gray head, when he gets to Washington he can’t be­lieve all the good­ies con­gress­men (and women) have spread for them­selves — ex­emp­tions, priv­i­leges, pre­rog­a­tives and even, if he likes, an aide at the ready to an­swer an in­con­ve­nient call of na­ture for him. Soon the new con­gress­man un­der­stands how im­por­tant he is, and joins the bi­par­ti­san de­fense of the undrained swamp.

When Oba­macare was un­der construction, some­one in the Se­nate sug­gested an amend­ment that would have pro­vided in­surance sub­si­dies to ex­ec­u­tive and leg­isla­tive staff, but cer­tain wiser heads un­der­stood how this might look in Peo­ria and Pitts­burgh, and the idea was set aside. Oba­macare was duly signed, sealed and de­liv­ered, and only then every­one re­al­ized what Congress had done to its im­por­tant self. Mem­bers of Congress wanted the lav­ish sub­si­dies after all, but no one wanted to vote in pub­lic for an ex­emp­tion to the health care in­flicted on every­one else. Hari kari is not a pop­u­lar con­gres­sional sport.

The Democrats, des­per­ate, turned to Daddy for help. Pres­i­dent Obama or­dered his Of­fice of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment to pro­vide sub­sidy dol­lars for con­gres­sional mem­bers and cer­tain mem­bers of their staffs to soften the costs that every­one else would pay for Oba­macare. OPM doesn’t have the au­thor­ity to ap­pro­pri­ate this money, but never mind. What’s the law among friends? The sub­sidy stands, which is why mem­bers of Congress won’t feel the pinch when Oba­macare pre­mi­ums con­tinue to soar.

What one pres­i­dent’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der can do, can be un­done by an­other pres­i­dent. The screams on Capi­tol Hill would be long and loud, with Nancy Pelosi singing tenor and Paul Ryan contributing bass. But send­ing Congress to bed with­out sup­per is not ex­actly dry­ing up the soup bowl at the or­phan­age. Con­gress­men will weep and wail, but their con­stituents do not usu­ally see them as the poor and mis­treated. The Don­ald would only be help­ing them do the right thing.

With Congress star­ing at that Oct. 1 dead­line, leg­is­la­tion to re­peal and re­place the Oba­macare disas­ter would move past the ob­struc­tions, snags and baf­fles in record time. Pain, ap­plied in the right places, can be a great per­suader.

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