Editorials: A modest suggestion to move Congress
The president could cancel congressional sweetheart subsidies for Obamacare
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.