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  1. #1
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    Donald Trump Threatens to Cancel Some Health-Care Benefits for Lawmakers

    It is about time. IMO

    Donald Trump Threatens to Cancel Some Health-Care Benefits for Lawmakers

    In tweet, president also targets insurance company payments

    By Louise Radnofsky

    July 29, 2017 2:23 p.m. ET603 COMMENTS


    WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump made one of his most explicit threats to cut off payments to insurance companies to force senators and lobbyists back to the bargaining table for a GOP health-care bill, and saying, for the first time, that he was also willing to cancel some of lawmakers’ health-care benefits.

    “If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!” Mr. Trump tweeted Saturday.
    Mr. Trump’s statement came less than two days after the collapse in the Senate of Republicans’ effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

    For months, Mr. Trump has threatened to stop reimbursements to insurance companies—a part of the ACA—but his administration has always paid them in the end, including amid significant uncertainty in June and at a crucial moment in GOP negotiations just a week ago in July.

    The next set of payments, which total millions of dollars for insurers that have lowered deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs for the poorest enrollees in coverage under the law also known as Obamacare, is due in three weeks.


    Donald J. Trump
    @realDonaldTrump


    If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!
    11:27 AM - Jul 29, 2017


    Those payments have been challenged in court by House Republicans, who argue the funds were never authorized by Congress. A federal judge has sided with the House but allowed the payments to continue until the litigation concludes.

    Democrats have said that cutting off the payments would be tantamount to sabotaging the insurance markets, and that Republicans will bear the blame.

    “If the president refuses to make the cost-sharing reduction payments, every expert agrees that premiums will go up and health care will be more expensive for millions of Americans. The president ought to stop playing politics with people’s lives and health care, start leading and finally begin acting presidential,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) on Saturday.

    Mr. Trump’s Saturday tweet came on the heels of several others expressing his disappointment that GOP senators had so far failed to come together around a single piece of legislation that would fulfill a shared campaign pledge of repealing the ACA and enacting their own set of proposals in its place.


    It was also the first to mention that he was open to another idea proposed by conservative activists to pull lawmakers back to the task of a health-care bill: cutting off their existing health benefits.

    Activists including Heritage Action, the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, have proposed that Mr. Trump’s administration change a rule promulgated by the Office of Personnel Management during the Obama administration that allows members of Congress and their staff to obtain subsidized insurance alongside other Washington, D.C., small businesses.

    That rule has been the subject of significant contention for years, with some lawmakers contending that it is an end-run around a provision in the 2010 health law that requires members of Congress to get their health coverage like other Americans. Lawmakers and their aides get a hefty subsidy from their employer—Congress—when they buy coverage through the D.C. online insurance exchange, which critics contend is unique to them. Defenders of the rule argue that the provision was never intended to force members of Congress or their aides to lose the employer-sponsored health benefits that many people get on the job.

    Effectively cutting off members’ existing health benefits would focus their attention, Heritage Action has argued.

    “With the long-promised goal of repealing Obamacare and providing relief from the failing law slowly slipping away because of liberal intransigence, senators should finally subject themselves to the same burdens imposed upon their constituents. Maybe then they would come around to begin delivering on their longstanding promise,” wrote Michael Needham, head of Heritage Action, in an opinion piece this week.

    Republican lawmakers scattered after the early Friday morning defeat of fallback legislation to dismantle parts of the ACA. Some have said they want to turn quickly to bipartisan bills that shore up the individual markets with steps such as an appropriation for the contested payments. Others have said they are still pursuing GOP legislation and are refusing to give up the idea they can come back after recess with a proposal that secures the support of at least 50 Republicans in the Senate.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-...ers-1501352607



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  2. #2
    Senior Member Beezer's Avatar
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    Put Congress on the ACA...they should be on the same plan they shove down our throats.

    And get them off retirement benefit plans...change them over to Social Security.
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  3. #3
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beezer View Post
    Put Congress on the ACA...they should be on the same plan they shove down our throats.

    And get them off retirement benefit plans...change them over to Social Security.
    They are on the ACA but they get their premiums and those of their staffers subsidized big time. That was a rule done by Obama that Trump can undo with the stroke of a pen and I hope that he does - they make plenty of money to pay for all of their own insurance . Obamacare is ALL about insurance, not healthcare.
    Last edited by Newmexican; 07-29-2017 at 06:42 PM.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Beezer's Avatar
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    Thank you for the clarification...hope he does that.

    Pass term limits

    Get them on Social Security...maybe then they will STOP stealing from it and put the funds back in!

    Cut foreign aid by 50% next Fiscal Year...put the money in OUR SS funds...then cut it another 25% the following year!

    Wean them off our money!
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Newmexican View Post
    They are on the ACA but they get their premiums and those of their staffers subsidized big time. That was a rule done by Obama that Trump can undo with the stroke of a pen and I hope that he does - they make plenty of money to pay for all of their own insurance . Obamacare is ALL about insurance, not healthcare.
    LOL!! Wow. I didn't know they got a subsidy. Thank you Newmexican. No more subsidized health insurance for people who suck down $175,000 a year in pay from the US taxpayers on top of all their other sources of income. Talk about welfare for the rich .... GO TRUMP GO!! Use that pen now. Don't wait another minute. They can all thank McCain, Murkowski and Collins for the pay cut.

    Hee! Hee! Leave it to Trump to say "why are we spending money on that?"
    Last edited by Newmexican; 08-03-2017 at 04:17 AM.
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  6. #6
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    This is a pretty good article about it.

    HEALTH CARECOMMENTARY

    How Congress Mysteriously Became a ‘Small Business’ to Qualify for Obamacare Subsidies

    Robert Moffit /
    May 11, 2016 /

    It seems that federal officials have worked overtime to undermine public trust. Benghazi, the IRS abuses, the “fast and furious” gun-running fiasco, the solar power boondoggles, and the seemingly endless implementation problems of the Affordable Care Act—all these scandals have common themes: arrogant and abusive bureaucracy, double dealing, lame excuses, and legal hairsplitting.

    All these scandals have common themes: arrogant and abusive bureaucracy, double dealing, lame excuses, and legal hairsplitting.
    The outrages listed above can be placed squarely at the doorstep of the White House. But one scandal is truly bipartisan: How key administration and congressional officials connived to create, under cover of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, special health insurance subsidies for members of Congress.
    Here’s how it went down.

    Rushing to enact the giant Obamacare bill in March 2010, Congress voted itself out of its own employer-sponsored health insurance coverage—the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

    Section 1312(d)(3)(D) required members of Congress and staff to enroll in the new health insurance exchange system. But in pulling out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, they also cut themselves off from their employer-based insurance contributions.

    (It should be noted that, before final passage, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, offered an amendment that would have provided Federal Employees Health Benefits Program subsidies for congressional enrollees in Obamacare, but Senate Democrats defeated it on a procedural vote, 56-43.)

    Obamacare’s insurance subsidies for ordinary Americans are generous, but capped by income. No one with an annual income over $47,080 gets a subsidy. That’s well below typical Capitol Hill salaries. Members of Congress make $174,000 annually, and many on their staff have impressive, upper-middle-class paychecks.

    Maybe the lawmakers didn’t understand what they were doing, but The New York Times’ perspicacious Robert Pear certainly did.

    On April 12, 2010, Pear wryly wrote, “If they did not know exactly what they were doing to themselves, did lawmakers who wrote and passed the bill fully grasp the details of how it would influence the lives of other Americans?”

    So, let’s follow the thickening plot:

    Act One—Congress Has a Panic Attack

    Realizing what they had done, congressional leaders sought desperately to get fatter taxpayer subsidies in the Obamacare exchange system. In a nutshell, they wanted special funding unavailable to other Americans. The standard excuse was that, without a special “sweetener,” a Capitol Hill “brain drain” would ensue; the best and brightest would flee to the private sector to get more affordable employment-based coverage.

    From 2010 to 2013, House and Senate leaders schemed to get extra taxpayer subsidies—past “the Tea Party rabble”—without a lot of noise, and secure a nice, quiet “administrative” remedy from the Obama administration.

    Their hopes centered on a compliant Office of Personnel Management, the agency that administers the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, providing the unauthorized relief. No recorded votes. No ugly floor fights.

    Act Two—Congress Gets Taxpayers’ Money Without Appropriating It

    Anticipating an attempted “end run” around the law, on Aug. 2, 2013, The Heritage Foundation published a detailed paper outlining the legislative history of the controversy.

    The analysis concluded that neither the Affordable Care Act nor Chapter 89 of Title V (the law governing the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program) authorized the transfer of monies in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program trust fund for use in health plans outside of the program.

    Shortly thereafter, on Aug. 13, 2013, Timothy Jost, professor of law at Washington and Lee University, wrote in his Health Affairs Blog:

    The exchanges are only open to individuals and small employers. No large employers can participate in the exchange, at least not yet. There is no provision, therefore for large employers, including the largest—the United States government—to pay for exchange coverage.

    Digging into the role of former House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Oct. 1, 2013, Politico reported, “OPM initially ruled that lawmakers and staffers couldn’t receive the subsidies once they went into the exchanges.”

    But, at a July 31 closed-door meeting with Senate Democrats, President Barack Obama had promised he would “fix” the mess they made of their health coverage.

    So, on Aug. 7, 2013, just as Congress was getting out of town for the August recess, the Office of Personnel Management ruled that members of Congress and staff enrolled in the exchange program would get Federal Employees Health Benefits Program subsidies, even though they were no longer in the program.

    Act Three—Congress Magically Becomes a Small Business

    In a second iteration of its rule-making, the Office of Personnel Management declared that Congress and staff were eligible to enroll in the Washington, D.C., “SHOP” Exchange, a health insurance exchange reserved for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. The exchange offers special insurance subsidies to participating small businesses.

    The problem was, of course, that Congress is not a “small business,” at least under any clinically sane definition of the term, and no section of the Affordable Care Act provided for any congressional exemption from the ban on large employer participation in the SHOP exchanges. It’s hard to imagine a more arbitrary ruling.

    Act Four—Congressional Bureaucrats File False Paperwork

    In filing to get the special insurance subsidies for enrolling lawmakers and their staff members in the D.C. “SHOP” Exchange, congressional officials claimed that the Senate and House each had only 45 employees. That false information allowed both chambers to meet the magic number requirement.

    In Feb. 2015, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., a member of the Senate’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, attempted to subpoena these un-redacted documents, only to be stymied by all nine committee Democrats and five Republicans.

    According to National Review, Vitter’s effort was opposed by the Senate leadership. As for the five committee Republicans, they alibied their votes with excuses that ranged from the merely lame to the transparently absurd.

    Now the issue is simmering again. This month, Michael Cannon of the CATO Institute and John Malcolm, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Meese Center for Legal and

    Judicial Studies, wrote in The Hill:

    Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that unnamed officials who administer benefits for Congress made clearly false statements when they applied to have the House and Senate participate in D.C.’s ‘SHOP’ Exchange for 2014. Notably, they claimed the 435-member House had only 45 members and 45 staffers, while the 100-member Senate had only 45 employees total. Rather than a good faith clerical error, this was an intentional falsehood, which makes it a crime under both federal and D.C. law.

    Nicholas Bagley, professor of law at the University of Michigan, says that Malcolm and Cannon’s charge is “irresponsible.” He insists that the Office of Personnel Management’s rule-making legitimizes these bizarre congressional gymnastics. But Bagley’s argument merely assumes what is to be proven. It is the Office of Personnel Management’s behavior, in the first place, that is at issue.

    A serious congressional investigation would determine whether or not office’s career staff had indeed determined that the agency could not authorize subsidies outside of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

    It would reveal whether or not they were coerced into ruling contrary to their understanding of the law, and who specifically was pressuring them. Of course, such an investigation would secure all relevant Office of Personnel Management documents, including memos, meeting notes, emails, or other communications, especially from the White House.

    Congress has options. Congress could, for example, admit that it isn’t a “small business” after all, and re-enroll in the Obamacare health insurance exchange system on the same terms and conditions as every other American participating in the system.

    Alternatively, Congress could resurrect the original Grassley amendment, enacting Federal Employees Health Benefits Program subsidies outright, giving them statutory legitimacy, while enrolling the president, cabinet officials, and all political appointees in Obamacare. That, at least, would be constitutional.

    Or, Congress could repeal Section 1312(d)(3)(D) and re-enroll members and staff in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. This would enable them, as the president initially promised all Americans, to keep the plans they had and they liked. But it has a public relations downside.

    Lawmakers can pursue any of these options right away. The best option will take some time. It’s a matter of Congress cleaning up its own self-made mess, and a lot of others, by repealing the Affordable Care Act altogether.

    http://dailysignal.com/2016/05/11/ho...care-subsides/
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  7. #7
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    Might as well put this in for the archives..This is what happened when Vitter tried to find who authorized Congress to name itself a small business...

    How Five Republicans Let Congress Keep Its Fraudulent Obamacare Subsidies

    by BRENDAN BORDELON May 7, 2015 1:26 PM @BRENDANBORDELON

    Health-care experts call it D.C. insiderism at its worst.

    The rumors began trickling in about a week before the scheduled vote on April 23: Republican leadership was quietly pushing senators to pull support for subpoenaing Congress’s fraudulent application to the District of Columbia’s health exchange — the document that facilitated Congress’s “exemption” from Obamacare by allowing lawmakers and staffers to keep their employer subsidies.

    The application 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.

    But until Vitter got a green light from the Small Business Committee to subpoena the unredacted application from the District of Columbia health exchange, it would be impossible to determine who in Congress gave it a stamp of approval. When Vitter asked Republicans on his committee to approve the subpoena, however, he was unexpectedly stonewalled.

    With nine Democrats on the committee lined up against the proposal, the chairman needed the support of all ten Republicans to issue the subpoena. But, 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.

    Senate staffers, according to a top committee aide, reported seeing Missouri senator Roy Blunt make calls to at least two Republican committee members, lobbying them, at McConnell’s behest, to vote no on subpoenaing the exchange. By the time the committee was called to quorum, Enzi, Risch, Ayotte, and Fischer voted no.

    To many observers, it was curious that any Republican would move to put the brakes on an investigation into Obamacare fraud, and particularly curious that they would pull back in an instance where the federal government was actually defrauding itself, one that so clearly illustrates Obamacare’s flaws by exposing the bureaucratic jujitsu and outright dishonesty required of federal employees themselves to navigate the law.

    Conservative health-care experts can’t understand the reasoning behind the GOP senators’ opposition. They see politics and self-interest at play, and they allege that Republican leaders are as invested as their Democratic counterparts in maintaining their subsidies, fraudulently obtained, while avoiding scrutiny from an overwhelmingly disapproving American public.

    “We deserve to know who signed that application, because they are robbing taxpayers,” says Michael Cannon, director of health-policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute. The staffers who signed the fraudulent application, he says, “know who was directing them to do this. And so we have to follow the trail of breadcrumbs. This is the next breadcrumb, and whoever is farther up the trail wants to stop Vitter right here.”

    The story of the ill-fated subpoena can be traced back to the debate over the Affordable Care Act, when Senator Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) insisted that lawmakers and congressional staff join a health-care exchange set up under the bill. For government employees, 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.

    After conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch obtained the application through a Freedom of Information Act request and discovered obvious signs of fraud, Vitter requested approval to subpoena an unredacted copy of the application. The value of that document, says Cannon, is that it would reveal the name of the person who filed it. “Now you’ve got someone to call to testify,” he says, predicting that testimony would precipitate a congressional vote on whether to end the congressional exemption altogether.

    “I think it makes sense to find out what happened,” says Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs, a noted conservative health-care voice and a National Review contributor. “It would be pretty interesting to see whose name is on the forms,” he says. “It has to go beyond mid-level staffers.”

    But some congressional Republicans, it seems, are also resistant to getting to the bottom of the mystery — or, at the very least, they are content to let sleeping dogs lie.

    Committee rules for a subpoena require either the consent of the ranking member or a majority of the group’s 19 senators. Because Democrats quickly made their opposition clear, Vitter needed the approval of all ten Republicans. Nine of them quickly consented via e-mail; one senator was strangely unresponsive.

    Senior committee aides say that Rand Paul’s staff didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail requesting the senator’s consent and, when they did, they refused to provide it. When Vitter attempted to set up a member-to-member meeting, his overtures were ignored or put off. Paul’s policy staff refused to take a meeting. When Vitter tried to confront Paul on the Senate floor, they say, the Kentucky senator skirted the issue.


    It wasn’t until after the vote that Paul shared his reasoning. “Senator Paul opposes allowing Congress to exempt themselves from any legislation,” an aide told the Conservative Review. “To that end, yesterday, he reintroduced his proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit Congress from passing any law that exempts themselves. Senator Paul prefers this option over a partisan cross-examination of Congressional staff.”

    But a constitutional amendment is a longshot that would take years, and it hardly precluded an investigation of congressional corruption here and now.

    That’s absurd,” says Robert Moffit, the director of the Center for Health Policy Studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “You don’t need a constitutional amendment to get a subpoena . . . I don’t know where he’s coming from.”

    “The answers he has given do not make sense,” Cannon says of Paul. “And when someone with his principles does something that is so obviously against his principles, and does not give an adequate explanation, you begin to think that politics is afoot. It would have to be someone very powerful that made him a powerful pitch — or threat — to keep him from doing this.”

    Paul’s press secretary tells National Review that the senator “examines every opportunity to [oppose Obamacare] individually, and does not base his vote on requests made by other senators, including the majority leader.”

    Asked whether McConnell pushed Paul or any other senator on the subpoena, a spokesman for McConnell says the majority leader “didn’t make any announcements when that committee voted.”

    The flip-flopping Republicans justified their change of heart. Risch said in the April 23 committee meeting that legal wrangling with the D.C. exchange could take time away from the committee’s small-business work. Enzi said he saw little wrong with the application as is.

    “Each of us has our own budget, each of us has our own staff,” he said. “I don’t know about everybody else, but I’m way under 50 [employees]. So my staff qualifies as a small business.”

    Enzi was one of the original sponsors of Vitter’s 2013 amendment to end the congressional Obamacare exemption, but his press secretary tells National Review he felt the probe “could inadvertently target staff who simply completed paperwork as part of their job.” He insists that Enzi “made up his own mind.” Risch, Ayotte, and Fischer declined to comment.

    A spokesman for South Carolina senator Tim Scott, who voted for the subpoena, says that nobody lobbied him one way or the other, while a spokesman for Florida senator Marco Rubio, who also voted in favor of the measure, declined to comment.

    Health-care experts dismiss Enzi’s claim that each member’s office is its own small business, and not just because the health exchange application was filed for Congress as a whole. “These congressional offices that think they’re small businesses, are they LLCs?” Cannon asks. “Are they S-Corps? Are they shareholder-owned? Are they privately held? What is the ownership structure of this small business that you’re running, senator? It’s just utterly ridiculous.”

    “They’re transparently absurd,” says Moffit of Senate Republicans claiming small-business status. “Who made the determination that Congress is a small business and is therefore eligible for subsidies that do not legally exist? How did that happen?”

    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.”

    Others, however, think the motives behind GOP leadership’s apparent obfuscation are clear. “If there’s one thing that absolutely drives Americans fundamentally crazy, it’s the idea that Congress can set one set of rules for themselves and another for everybody else,” says Moffit. “That’s political poison, and that’s why they have been so desperate to avoid the issue.”

    “The most powerful interest group in Washington D.C., is not the Chamber or the unions or anyone else,” Cannon says. “It is members of Congress and their staffs. And when it comes to their benefits, they are all members of the same party.”

    Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/articl...sidies-brendan
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    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    On ObamaCare, is there one set of rules for Congress and another for citizens?

    BY JOHN MALCOLM AND MICHAEL F. CANNON - 04/15/16 08:01 AM EDT

    © Getty Images

    Members of Congress, congressional staff, and their dependents are now in their third year of receiving health coverage through the Exchange the District of Columbia established for small businesses under the Affordable Care Act. Newly discovered documents illustrate how government officials broke numerous laws to make that happen—laws that apply to you and me, but apparently not to Congress.

    Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that unnamed officials who administer benefits for Congress made clearly false statements when they originally applied to have the House and Senate participate in D.C.’s “SHOP” Exchange for 2014. Notably, they claimed the 435-member House had only 45 members and 45 staffers, while the 100-member Senate had only 45 employees total.


    Rather than a good-faith clerical error, this was an intentional falsehood, which makes it a crime under both federal and D.C. law. Knowingly making even a single false statement in a matter concerning congressional compensation is punishable by up to five years in prison.

    Peel away additional layers of this onion, and we find these and other officials likely violated other laws too. Yet they have been protected from prosecution in a way ordinary citizens are not. Why? Because these officials were acting to exempt members of Congress from the costs of the ACA.

    Here’s why and how.

    The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program gives federal employees a choice of health plans and pays up to $12,000 of the premium. But the ACA kicked members of Congress and congressional staff out of the FEHBP, and said the only way they can get health benefits is through an Exchange.

    That presented problems beyond just kicking members of Congress out of their health plans. Those $12,000 premium contributions would be illegal in the Exchanges the ACA created for individuals. Since federal law allows employers to contribute to premiums through SHOP Exchanges, though, certain officials decided Congress would enroll in D.C.’s small-business Exchange.

    Yet there was a problem with that “solution,” too. The ACA bars businesses with more than 100 employees from participating in SHOP Exchanges. Until this year, D.C. barred businesses with more than 50 employees. When those officials falsely claimed the House and Senate fit under those limits, they did so because they wanted to draw money from the federal Treasury—i.e., a subsidy of up to $12,000 for each member and staffer.

    Making a materially false or fraudulent statement as part of a claim against the U.S. Treasury is a separate federal crime, as is wire fraud. Ordinary citizens who violate these laws face fines of up to three times the amount drawn from the Treasury and/or up to 20 years in prison. They might also face prosecution for health care fraud (10 years), violating the Sarbanes-Oxley ban on falsifying documents (20 years), conspiracy to commit such offenses (5 years), and other crimes under federal and D.C. law.

    Newly unearthed documents suggest these officials knew they were violating the law. After the original false statements became public, D.C. dropped the employer-size question from its SHOP Exchange application, even though federal law requires D.C. to verify that participating employers are indeed small businesses. In their applications for 2015, congressional officials nevertheless continued making other false statements, such as claiming that members and staffers have no dependents.

    It appears that for 2016, congressional officials wanted to avoid any additional opportunities for prosecution. Documents recently obtained from D.C.’s SHOP Exchange show congressional officials reported that the House has 435 members and 6,995 other employees, and the Senate has 4,588 employees total.

    This long-overdue admission that Congress is not a small business shines a klieg light on the fact that members of Congress and their staffs are receiving health insurance and a subsidy of up to $12,000 each through a program from which federal law categorically bars them. It lays bare that government officials have systematically violated both the ACA and criminal laws to facilitate illegal, taxpayer-funded gifts to members of Congress.

    Ordinary citizens don’t get to go around lying to the government, drawing money from the federal Treasury, and then using that money to buy gifts for members of Congress. Are government officials exempt from those rules?

    http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-bl...r-congress-and




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  9. #9
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    10 Perks Congress Has That You Don't

    Being less popular than dog poop, traffic jams, and lines at the DMV has its perks. Here are 10 congressional perks that the average Joe simply doesn't have.
    Sean Williams
    Oct 20, 2013 at 1:30PM

    Following a 16-day government shutdown, another round of kick-the-can when it comes to the U.S. debt ceiling, and rabid debates over the future of Obamacare, it's not surprising to discover that Americans don't think very highly of Congress.

    I know from a personal perspective I'm not too pleased with the effort either party has put in over the past couple of years, but three polls since 2011 speak wonders to the amount of vitriol directed at Congress.

    Separate polls from The New York Times, Public Policy Polling, and Gallup (conducted between 2011 and 2013 for the latter two) show that Congress' approval rating comes in at a record low of between 9% and 11%, depending on which source you choose. As Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) so aptly put it (link opens a YouTube video) in 2011 while speaking to members of Congress about its 9% approval rating, "We're almost at the margin of error for zero!"

    These aforementioned poll-takers put it into even more context by asking Americans what their opinion was of Congress relative to other unfavorable ideas, people, and tasks. According to their results, Congress is viewed less favorably by the public than dog poop, hemorrhoids, traffic jams, cockroaches, lines at the DMV, zombies, herpes, banks, Brussels sprouts, the IRS, used-car salesmen, and Wall Street. However, by some saving grace, Congress has remained in a better light than Miley Cyrus.

    While the results are understandably comical, they're also incredibly sad. Why? Because Congress is in control of setting the laws that individuals and corporations are governed by.

    As I discussed in June, public perception can be a dangerous tool that can destroy stock market rallies even if companies are delivering solid growth prospects. Investors' faith in Congress is crucial, as their ability to navigate the upcoming debt-ceiling debate in early February could have a profound impact on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) and broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) . Even though both the Dow and S&P 500 hit new all-time highs this week, the government shutdown is estimated to have cost the U.S. $24 billion in GDP and we're no closer to a long-term debt-ceiling and federal deficit solution than we were at this time last week. A prolonged government shutdown and debt default would portend bad news for both major U.S. indexes moving forward.

    However, what could be most disconcerting thing of all are the perks members of Congress get as a "thank you" for serving their country. I've highlighted countless company perks over the years that companies grant their employees, and some did involve exorbitant pay packages, free gym memberships, and hefty retirement plans. But there are few company perks that compare with these 10 taken together.

    1. A base annual salary of $174,000

    Admittedly, there should be some premium in pay for setting the laws and running the country as elected officials, and certain companies do grant their employees exorbitant pay packages, but being a member of Congress includes a minimum annual paycheck of $174,000, which is more than three times higher than the average private-sector salary of $51,986 in 2010, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

    2. Free airport parking

    How much would you pay for an airport parking spot that was directly next to the terminal you landed at? For Congress, it's a big fat zero. At one time in its history, long before the Airport Authority controlled Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport in the Washington, D.C., area, the federal government operated them. When the Airport Authority took over in 1987, as a courtesy, it kept 92 combined spots reserved between both airports for members of Congress. At a rate of $22 per day, that represents almost $740,000 in forgone revenue annually for Reagan National.

    3. A free, on-site gym for House members

    Not only are members of the House of Representatives treated to their own exclusive gym, but it also comes with flat-screen TVs, a swimming pool, a sauna and stream room, and paddleball and basketball courts. This wouldn't be too bad, except that Congress kept its gym open during all 16 days of the government shutdown, putting the onus of cleaning and maintenance fees squarely on taxpayers.

    4. Weakened insider trading restrictions

    Despite passing the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, perhaps known better as the STOCK Act in 2012, Congress gutted the primary disclosure component earlier this year. While still making it difficult to make trades on inside information, this means they don't have to publicly disclose their trades and potential insider knowledge. It's laudable they passed the restrictions, but it's hard keep them honest if it's difficult to access the information.

    5. Up to 239 days off

    According to the congressional calendar released in late 2012, there were 126 congressional sessions on the docket without a single five-day work week, leaving members of Congress with 239 days to work outside of Congress. Sometimes this means working within their home state, and in other cases it can mean a vacation. Members of Congress get the entire month of August off, get two weeks around Easter off, and weren’t scheduled to work a single weekend, according to this year’s docket. Of course, the congressional docket can be changed and, as we saw as recently as the debt-ceiling debate, members of Congress will indeed work weekends as deemed necessary.

    6. Congress receives health-care subsidies under Obamacare

    Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, individuals are required to have health insurance or face a penalty that increases each year through 2016. For individuals earning less than four times the annual poverty level (about $46,000) or families earning less than four times the poverty level (close to $92,000), they are eligible to receive a partial or full subsidy on their health insurance through Obamacare's health exchanges. Congress, however, also gets a large portion of its health insurance subsidized by the public on Obamacare's health exchanges despite making more than four times the poverty level.

    7. A better retirement plan

    According to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average Social Security recipient is going to net $15,000 a year in benefits while a public workers' pension will average around $26,000. By contrast, a retired member of Congress who's served 20 years will average $59,000 annually in pension benefits. In addition, Congress members (actually all federal workers) have access to the Thrift Savings Plan, a 401(k)-like investment vehicle with fees of just 0.03%. To put that into context, Bankrate notes that this means just $0.27 in fees for every $1,000 for the Thrift Savings Plan, compared with the average 401(k), which charges around $5 in fees for every $1,000! Over a lifetime, that can mean thousands less in fees for congressional employees compared to public- and private-sector workers.

    8. Members of Congress fly free

    OK, so not every flight is free for members of Congress, but a vast majority of flights between their home states and Washington, D.C., are funded with taxpayer money. What's really unique is that lawmakers are afforded the ability by airlines to book themselves on multiple flights without being charged multiple times because of their very liquid schedules.

    9. Death benefits

    Should a member of Congress be killed while in office, the surviving family of that member would be entitled to receive at least one year's worth of salary, or a minimum of $174,000. In contrast, family members of soldiers in the United States armed forces who perish while defending our country domestically or overseas are entitled to $100,000 in military death benefits, as well as funeral and burial expenses.

    10. A $1.2 million to $3.3 million allowance

    Members of the House receive a $900,000 annual allowance for a staff as well as a $250,000 budget for travel and office expenses, paid for entirely by taxpayers. Each senator, on the other hand, gets a budget close to $3.3 million based on figures from the Congressional Research Service. Again, certain companies do offer lavish pay packages and perks to employees so it may be a bit hypocritical to pick on Congress for this one point. However, I’m not aware of any business out there where all employees equally get at least $1.2 million in expenses at their disposal.

    https://www.fool.com/investing/gener...-you-dont.aspx


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    The politicians will be the first to tell you that they too are on Obamacare. What they don't say is that 70% of THEIR costs are subsidized by the government.........
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