By Phil Kerpen
One of the most outrageous but least reported ongoing scandals in Washington is that the House and Senate have both falsely certified themselves as small businesses in order to fund health insurance for themselves and their staff with taxpayer dollars, sidestepping provisions of Obamacare. Senator David Vitter (La.) recently tried to subpoena the documents in which the false declarations were made, but he ran into strong bipartisan opposition. Perhaps most shockingly, Senator Rand Paul – who is campaigning for president on a promise to “defeat the Washington machine” – voted to keep this ultimate Washington insider scam secret.
When the Democrats were rushing the health care law through Congress – passing it, perhaps, before they even knew what was in it – Republicans managed, with strong public support, to get language included requiring members of Congress and their staff to go into the new health care exchanges, to experience the same thing millions of Americans would experience and create a strong incentive, therefore, for them to make sure the system works.
Like many Americans being dumped into Obamacare exchanges, members of Congress and their staff stood to lose their employer contributions – in this case, the generous financing of their health benefits by taxpayers that they had before the law passed and took it away.
But unlike all of the other Americans in that situation, Congress had access to President Obama to personally intervene on their behalf. And he did, with an Office of Personnel Management rule allowing them to have taxpayers continue picking up most of the costs of their premiums.
It gets worse. Because there is no mechanism for employer contributions in the individual exchange, Congress also filed false documents claiming the House and Senate each have less than 50 employees to qualify as “small businesses,” even though over 13,700 employees have in fact signed up. That’s fraud.
The watchdog group Judicial Watch obtained the false documents in Freedom of Information Act litigation, but the redactions included the most crucial piece of information – the names of the people who signed, under penalty of perjury, the blatantly false statements that the House and Senate each have just 45 employees.
That’s where Vitter’s effort comes in. As the chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, Vitter wanted to investigate exactly how the very large institutions of the House and Senate, with thousands of employees, came to be officially designated as small businesses. In the interests of that investigation, he sought to subpoena the false documents without redaction to find out who signed them so those people can be questioned.
Who could be against that? Sadly, 14 of the 19 members of the committee. To their great credit, four other Republicans voted with Chairman Vitter to issue the subpoena: Marco Rubio (Fla.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Joni Ernst (Iowa).
The rest of the committee all voted no, including Republicans Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Jim Risch (Idaho), Deb Fischer (Neb.), and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) – along with the aforementioned Senator Paul.
Democrats on the committee told constituents they were undecided up to the vote, but then all voted in lockstep to keep the documents secret. They are: Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Chris Coons (Del.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), and Gary Peters (Mich.).
This is much more than a minor vote in an obscure Senate committee.
Nothing makes the American people more angry than Congress cutting corrupt backroom deals to give themselves and their staff special benefits – especially a deal that relies on the blatantly false claim that the House and Senate are small businesses. Yet Senator Paul and 13 others (along with House and Senate leadership, who could end this scam and begin complying with the law if they wanted to) sided with the Washington machine, a fact their political rivals would do well to spotlight.
By Phil Kerpen