This scandal really seems like it should be a big deal.
Republicans in Congress, including Speaker John Boehner, have been demanding an end to Congress’ “special exemption” from Obamacare, which allows the federal government to subsidise member and staff purchases of insurance plans from health care exchanges.
When House Republicans made their final offer to keep the government open on Monday, one of their two demands was the so-called Vitter Amendment to ban those subsidies.
Now, leaked emails show that, as recently as July, Boehner was secretly working with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) and President Barack Obama (D) to maintain the subsidies he’s publicly decrying. His staff even tried to set up a secret meeting with the President, under the guise of immigration bill negotiations, to strategize on the issue.
Obviously, House Republicans will have to fire Boehner over this. How can you keep a leader who conspires with Democrats to block one of your key policy goals?
It’s hard to think how House Republicans could justify keeping Boehner now, unless their complaints about the “special exemption” have been purely cynical.
That is, maybe they know the “special exemption” isn’t really a special benefit for Congress, but a way of addressing a unique disadvantage that has been placed on Congress, without which staff compensation will have to be cut thousands of dollars from 2013 levels. And maybe they’ve been pressing the issue because they think “Congress is exempt from Obamacare” is a good talking point, even while they seek their own private assurances that the amendment they’re demanding won’t become law.
Maybe the average Republican in Congress has been just as duplicitous as Boehner on this issue.
Of course, that’s not what I assume is going on. I try to assume, as a base case, that congressional Republicans are operating in good faith, and that if they’re hammering on the “special exemption,” that must be because they think eliminating it is really important to the betterment of the country. And I assume that Boehner must be screwing them by trying to cut a deal behind their backs.
But if they keep Boehner around, I’m going to have to re-evaluate that.
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