When it comes to Obamacare hypocrisy, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has plenty of company. That masquerader’s club now includes Nevada’s junior senator, Republican Dean Heller.
Sen. Reid, D-Nev., made national headlines earlier this month when he exempted some of his top aides from buying health insurance through an Affordable Care Act exchange. As millions of Americans were being forced into plans they didn’t like and couldn’t afford, congressional committee and leadership staffs — some of the same people who helped Sen. Reid pass and relentlessly promote the unpopular law — were allowed to remain in a federal employee plan instead. They wanted no part of Obamacare exchange plans, and although Sen. Reid could have forced them to share in the country’s misery, he chose not to.
It was typical Washington “Do as I say, not as I do” politics. However, as proof that hypocrisy is a plague on both major parties, Sen. Heller has joined Sen. Reid in going against his word and doing the wrong thing.
Under the Affordable Care Act, members of Congress and their personal staffs are required to purchase the same high-deductible, high-cost, reduced-provider, mandate-heavy coverage Democrats forced on everyone else. But members of Congress and their staffs are eligible for premium subsidies intended for the lower-middle and lower classes, even though their high incomes otherwise would disqualify them.
A consistent Obamacare opponent who backed legislation to deny Affordable Care Act subsidies to lawmakers and their staffs, Sen. Heller has nonetheless lined up at the Capitol trough to take those subsidies anyway. As reported Monday by the Review-Journal’s Steve Tetreault, Sen. Heller’s office confirmed he signed up for insurance through the District of Columbia marketplace, which offers the subsidy to the political class. It’s worth up to 75 percent of total premiums, a maximum of $5,113 for an individual and $11,378 for a family.
Sen. Heller’s explanation: He’s in compliance with the law — and Democrats are hypocrites, too!
“I know people who voted against the Bush tax cuts and still took them,” Sen. Heller told Mr. Tetreault. “So you ought to ask those people why did they take the Bush tax cuts when they voted against them.”
Sen. Heller certainly is correct about the left’s bounty of bad faith. Democrats voted against reductions in income, capital gains and estate taxes more than a decade ago and railed against those breaks for years, all the while claiming every available deduction, never submitting a tax bill that totals what they claim they should pay, and creating trusts to completely avoid the estate tax they champion as a vehicle to reduce income inequality and dynastic wealth.
But using one party’s hypocrisy as justification for hypocrisy by the other is low-road politics. When it comes to the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Reid and Sen. Heller could have followed the lead of other lawmakers in being true to the spirit of the law and their word — and they decided not to.
Capitol Hill’s leaders had discretion under the law to force committee and leadership staff into the exchanges. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi did just that. Only Sen. Reid did not. Meanwhile, every member of Congress could have avoided the D.C. exchange and paid full freight for their coverage, either through the private market or a state-based exchange. Reps. Joe Heck and Mark Amodei, both R-Nev., have rejected subsidies, as have other lawmakers from both parties. Sen. Heller, however, was happy to take the public’s money. Cha-ching!
“It’s simple,” Sen. Heller said back on Sept. 10, criticizing public subsidies. “Members of Congress, their staff, and the administration must play by the same rules as the American taxpayer.”
Back then, Sen. Heller was right. Today, he’s wrong. These subsidies are not equivalent to a company contribution toward health care benefits, as Sen. Reid and others have claimed. They are a special favor members of Congress gave themselves at the public’s expense — a way to lessen the financial pain of an ill-conceived, excessively bureaucratic law — and nothing more.
Congress needs principled people who live by their word, not phonies who use the system to benefit themselves and their buddies. Sen. Heller should prove he’s among the former, and not the latter, by canceling his subsidized coverage and enrolling through a different exchange — and fighting to repeal Obamacare.