ObamaCare Clusterfuck: ObamaCare is so great, Congress wants to exempt themselves from it
Congressional leaders in both parties are engaged in high-level, confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides from the insurance exchanges they are mandated to join as part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, sources [note plural] in both parties [it's bipartisan!] said.
The talks — which involve Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Obama administration and other top lawmakers — are extraordinarily sensitive, with both sides acutely aware of the potential for political fallout from giving carve-outs from the hugely controversial law to 535 lawmakers and thousands of their aides. Discussions have stretched out for months, sources said.
Ezra Klein dutifully tries to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Pravda:
If this sounds unbelievable, it’s because it is. There’s no effort to “exempt” Congress from Obamacare. No matter how this shakes out, Congress will have to follow the law, just like everyone else does.
Based on conversations I’ve had with a number of the staffs [not staffers?] involved in these talks, the actual issue here is far less interesting, and far less explosive, than an exemption. Rather, a Republican amendment meant to embarrass Democrats and a too-clever-by-half Democratic response has possibly created a problem in which the federal government can’t make its normal contribution to the insurance premiums of congressional staffers.
See? This is getting boring already.
Well, Ezra, I'm not bored. But then, the consequences of ObamaCare are of direct personal concern to me. Unlike you. And what I do note -- and Jeebus, here I am assessing Politico vs. Ezra Klein; truly we are doomed -- is that where Politico says specifically says his "lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides" are "in both parties" Klein does not say his "staffs" (not staffers? Wierd locution) are from both parties. So, reading between the lines -- and what is left to us these days but Kremlinology -- Klein's sweetening his beat and passing of their "Move along people, move along, there's no story here" as if it were insider knowledge. Since access is, after all, what Klein is in the business of trading.
Here’s how it happened: Back during the Affordable Care Act negotiations, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) proposed an amendment forcing all members of Congress and all of their staffs to enter the exchanges. The purpose of the amendment was to embarrass the Democrats. But in a bit of jujitsu of which they were inordinately proud, Democrats instead embraced the amendment and added it to the law. ... This was an offhand amendment that was supposed to be rejected. It’s not clear that the federal government has the authority to pay for congressional staffers on the exchanges, the way it pays for them now in the federal benefits program. That could lead to a lot of staffers quitting Congress because they can’t afford to shoulder 100 percent of their premiums. [Ezra gives his sources a little tongue] (There’s also a smaller issue related to how retiree benefits might be calculated [well, small perhaps to Ezra, but not to the retirees, who apparently might as well be in Bangladesh as far as he's concerned. Oh, wait, that's Yglesias. Sorry]. But I’m only willing to go so far into the weeds here [Indeed].)
Right, just like (hat tip, danps) the sequester was never "supposed to" pass. But if you forget all about the press coverage and insiderese, this is Civics 101: How a bill becomes a law. The House passed a bill, the Senate passed a bill, and then the President signed the bill into law. Case closed. What happened is what they meant all along to happen: Cuts, and a big kayfabe session where each legacy party gets to blame the other! Meanwhile, the people who need to be taken care of get taken care of, and the rest of us get thrown under the bus. Thanks for the explainer, Ezra.