Rand Paul: Rise of the Machine?

Rand Paul: Rise of the Machine?

May 7, 2015

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has made his name by challenging the Washington establishment. This has so much so defined Senator Paul that his campaign for the presidency has launched under a banner that reads in part, “Defeat the Washington Machine.” Yet a vote cast by Senator Paul at the end of April seems to be entirely inconsistent with this message. Senator Paul voted to keep secret documents related to a potential violation of federal law under the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare)… by all of Congress.  This has subsequently left political observers and even some of the Senator’s fans inside the Beltway completely and utterly baffled.

Here’s some background:

As terrible and unpopular as ObamaCare has been, it is still the law of the land… for now. One part of this gargantuan law actually pertains to the health benefits received by members of Congress and their staff.

Prior to ObamaCare, members of Congress and their staff received employer-sponsored health insurance from the federal government, not unlike most Americans receive from their employers today. Of course, since Congress works for the federal government, these contributions are actually funded by the American taxpayer.

However, during the initial Affordable Care Act formation and debate in Congress, there was a concerted effort to make sure that members of Congress and their staff would have to live under the health reforms they were imposing on the American people. Language made it into the final version of ObamaCare that prohibited members of Congress and their staff from receiving the usual federal employee benefits and instead force them all to buy individual coverage on the District of Columbia insurance exchange established under the law. By doing so, they would also lose their employer’s contribution to their health insurance expenses, which can range between $5,000 and $11,000 a year.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, it appears leaders in Congress attempted to skirt the law and preserve the taxpayer contributions to their health insurance costs. Members and their staff were supposed to be dumped into the more expensive and less comprehensive plans offered on the individual exchanges created by ObamaCare. In this way, they would find themselves subjected to the same harsh reality Congress created for millions of Americans who also lost their employer-sponsored coverage under ObamaCare. After all, it’s always a good thing to remind those at the center of the Washington bubble what it’s really like in the rest of the country.

Instead, the Obama administration’s Office of Personnel Management tweaked the rules to allow for continued taxpayer subsidization of Congressional health benefits. Yet the problem for Congress remained, despite this shift via executive fiat. The law still required for members of Congress and their employees to obtain their insurance through the DC exchange. Unfortunately, which exchange that had to be was not specified under the law.

Under ObamaCare, employers with less than 50 employees are eligible for subsidies to purchase group-rated plans offered on a small business exchange. This was meant as a way of expanding coverage to employees not covered by the employer mandate, which required all firms with 50 or more employees to offer insurance or pay a fine.  Thus, there exist two types of ObamaCare exchanges: one for small business and one for individuals.

Unsurprisingly, the individual exchanges were never designed for employers and employees to split the cost of health insurance. These exchanges were explicitly designed to accommodate those without employer health benefits. So Congress could not maintain the benefits President Obama promised they could keep if they used the individual exchange. Therefore, they turned to the small business exchange instead, which of course allowed for cost sharing between employees and employers.

Yet, as mentioned, the small business exchanges are exclusively for small businesses of fewer than 50 employees. It would be illegal for a larger firm to use a small business exchange and all its associated benefits. Of course, that didn’t stop our lawmakers, who seem to fancy themselves above the laws they make.

Congress submitted documents to the DC small business exchange claiming to have only 45 employees.

This is completely ludicrous. The Senate itself has more-than-twice that many senators! There are 435 members of the House of Representatives. That amounts to 535 employees without even beginning to count all the individual office support staffers as well as any committee staff, food service, security, and maintenance workers employed in Congress. All told, Congress employs over 21,000 people! Yet, to maintain their generous taxpayer-funded contributions to their health insurance, leaders in Congress claimed that the legislative body is just like any other small business in Washington, D.C.

That is the definition of fraud.

So what does all this have to do with Senator Rand Paul?

In late April, the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, chaired by Senator David Vitter (R-LA) held a vote to subpoena the documents submitted by Congress to the DC small business exchange and get to the bottom of all this. Senators Vitter, Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tim Scott (R-SC), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Cory Gardner (R-CO) all voted to begin the investigation. Shockingly absent from that list was Senator Rand Paul. Senator Paul voted NO along with nine Democratic senators. What’s worse is that reports have surfaced claiming that Senator Paul not only voted no, but also spearheaded the effort to lobby his fellow Republicans into opposing the measure. If this is the case, then he successfully persuaded an additional four GOP senators to join him in covering up what is amounting to be a massive case of fraud at the highest of levels.

Senator Paul’s vote alone is beyond a disappointment.

His initial explanation for doing so is absent of logic. Paul’s staff claims he voted no because he instead supports a constitutional amendment barring Congress from passing any law that does not apply to themselves. As good as that would be, that is a grossly insufficient explanation for this particular vote. The law already says Congress has to live under ObamaCare. They simply aren’t following it. This isn’t a problem stemming from a gap in the law, but instead a problem with a lack of enforcement, which Senator Paul has now inexplicably contributed to.

It is clear that something very emblematic of the “Washington Machine” is afoot here and that Senator Paul has possibly flirted with the dark side he has vowed to destroy. Senator Paul’s departure from ardent economic conservatives such as Marco Rubio and Tim Scott raises this suspicion, as there usually isn’t much daylight between them on issues such as ObamaCare.

Perhaps what is most clear of all on this issue is that Senator Rand Paul, if he wants to be president, owes the American people a better explanation… and maybe an apology as well.

It's Time for an American Encore