Why are Republican senators, including self-proclaimed uber-reformer Rand Paul of Kentucky, working to shield Congress from transparency about its own Obamacare subsidies?
Senator David Vitter of (R., La.) has made it his mission – a very admirable one — to force Congress to live under the same Obamacare rules everyone else does. Most recently, as chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Vitter has pushed for his committee to subpoena documents from Washington, D.C.’s Obamacare exchange as part of an investigation into whether members of Congress or staff falsified documents in order to receive Obamacare subsidies for which they would otherwise be ineligible. Judicial Watch had obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information request, but important information had been redacted — so Vitter wanted to subpoena the unredacted documents.
Congress employs 13,700 people who are enrolled in the health plans, yet it certified itself as a small business, with under 50 employees, in order for its employees to qualify for the subsidies.
Vitter says this amounts to yet another way for Congress to exempt itself from rules that pertain to everybody else.
But when he called for a vote to subpoena the documents, not only did committee Democrats oppose him, but so did half the committee’s Republicans: Jim Risch (Idaho), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), and Mike Enzi of Wyoming, along with Paul.
In a press release, Vitter said: “The message [sent by his colleagues] is clear: Congress should be able to lie so that members can get a special Obamacare subsidy unavailable to anyone else at that income level. Designating the House and Senate as ’small businesses’ with 45 employees is not right. And we owe it to our constituents to find out how this was permitted to happen.”
Conservative group American Commitment is particularly exercised about this dodge. “One of the only good provisions in the Obamacare law was the provision that forced Congress and its staff into Obamacare,” said Phil Kerpen, the group’s president. “But they are using a secret, corrupt deal to avoid complying with its terms. Chairman Vitter has bravely taken the lead on this, and it’s extremely disappointing to see Republicans join Democrats in obstructing his investigation.”
Of the five Republicans who voted against Vitter, the most firmly opposed, according to multiple reports, was Paul.
This is the guy running for president under the slogan “Defeat the Washington Machine.”
Opposing transparency about special rules for Congress looks far more like acting as a cog in the machine, not as someone trying to dismantle it.