The (un)Affordable Care Act has been knocked from the headlines lately because there’s been far too much, far more terrible news to report – Tom Brady’s pigskin not withstanding.However that doesn’t mean Obamacare’s problems have gone away. In fact, for one presidential hopeful named Rand Paul, they may be just beginning.
First we need to take a quick trip in the Wayback Machine to the early debate over the Act itself, when Republican Senator Chuck Grassley insisted that Congress and staff join a health-care exchange as part of the bill. Of course, as the National Review reports, “that meant giving up government-subsidized health-care contributions of between $5,000 and $10,000 per person. The White House scrambled to find a way to allow congressional employees to keep those subsidies. In Washington, D.C., only the small-business exchange allowed them to do so. After secret meetings with House Speaker John Boehner in 2013, President Obama instructed the Office of Personnel Management to allow Congress to file for classification as a small business, despite the fact that the law defines a small business as having no more than 50 employees and the House and Senate together employ tens of thousands.”
So clearly, that classification was and is absurd. Nonetheless, someone filed an application, “which said Congress employed just 45 people. Names were faked; one employee was listed as “First Last,” another simply as “Congress.” To Small Business Committee chairman David Vitter, who has fought for years against the Obamacare exemption, it was clear that someone in Congress had falsified the document in order to make lawmakers and their staff eligible for taxpayer subsidies provided under the exchange for small-business employees.”
The question is whom?Vitter was able to get approval from the Committee to subpoena to the unredacted application from the District of Columbia health exchange, which would ultimately reveal who signed the fraudulent application. Not surprisingly, all nine Democrats refused to support the subpoena. What is surprising – and disappointing – is what happened on the Republican side.
Vitter needed support from all ten Republicans. But, as the National Review reports, “though it seems an issue tailor-made for the tea-party star and Republican presidential candidate, Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) refused to lend his support. And when the Louisiana senator set a public vote for April 23, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his allies got involved. “For whatever reason, leadership decided they wanted that vote to be 5-5, all Republicans, to give Senator Paul cover,” one high-ranking committee staffer tells National Review. “So they worked at a member level to change the votes of otherwise supportive senators.” Four Republicans — senators Mike Enzi, James Risch, Kelly Ayotte, and Deb Fischer — had promised to support Vitter, but that would soon change. By the time the committee was called to quorum, Enzi, Risch, Ayotte, and Fisher voted no.”
That gave Rand Paul the cover he needed.“No one quite knows what’s behind leadership’s apparent push to kill the subpoena. The move baffled some committee staffers. “The amount of blood that McConnell and Paul spilled to prevent [the subpoena] from happening makes me wonder [if] maybe that isn’t all that there is to it,” the high-ranking staffer says. “Maybe other people signed it . . . They’re clearly afraid of something bigger than a person’s name getting out there.”
Unfortunately it just seems to be politics as usual. Rand Paul has built his “political brand” on being a principled outsider. But this little episode says something completely different.