During the course of the long, contentious and often under-handed battle to pass ObamaCare, Congress did do one honorable thing: it included the Grassley Amendment in the legislation that ensured that the government could not offer members of the House and Senate and their staffs any insurance plans but those created by the bill or those that were part of the exchanges set up in association with it. The principle was clear. If Congress, acting at the behest of President Obama, was going to shove this unpopular idea down the throats of an unwilling nation, those involved in making the law were going to have to live with it the same as the rest of the country. But three years later and with only six months to go before this provision goes into effect, it appears a new bipartisan consensus has emerged in the Congress about the misnamed Affordable Care Act: they want no part of it.
Though Democrats have mocked the more than three dozen attempts by House Republicans to repeal the act, the party leadership views the impending deadline with horror since the prospect of being forced into ObamaCare insurance has set off a mass exodus of members and their senior staffs. As Politico reports, there could be a surge in resignations before December 31 since doing so will allow representatives, senators and other congressional employees to retain their old federal insurance plans. That has led the same Democrats who pushed for the passage of ObamaCare to demand that it be changed to let the inhabitants of Capitol Hill of the hook. But even though Republicans have just as much incentive to want to amend the bill to save their own members and their staffs, their answer should be no. If Congress doesn’t want to cope with the far higher costs and poorer coverage that ObamaCare will ensure, they can scrap the entire misbegotten bill rather than just change it to suit their own interests.
If a Democratic leader like Connecticut’s John Larson thinks it’s unfair to expect his employees to be put in the same boat as his constituents, then maybe he should rethink the entire measure that he played a pivotal role in passing when his party controlled Congress.
Most Americans, who already think little of Congress, will shed no tears for the travails of these servants of the people. Nor will they think the surge to the exits on the part of members and staff will do the country much harm. But, to be fair, if the kind of turnover that Politico discusses today really happens, a brain drain of experienced staffers and veteran politicians will make the Hill an even more dysfunctional place than it already has become.
That’s not good, but the answer to this mess simply cannot be for the Congress to allow its own members and employees to opt out of the catastrophe that is about to land on the necks of their fellow citizens. Republicans may be as miserable as Democrats about this mess, but they need to understand that if they vote for a fix that will exempt Congress they are signing their own political death warrants. Any Republican that votes for such a “fix” will be betraying the voters and the political principles of their party. Losing their staffs (who provide much of the expertise and institutional memory of this branch of government) may be a disaster, but Congress must suffer along with the rest of us if they are to retain even a shred of credibility.