Hill Takes the Hypocritic Oath with New Health Plans
It may be a new year, but there's nothing new about the frustration over ObamaCare. For millions of Americans, the headaches they suffered when they woke up on January 1st were purely financial. Starting last Wednesday, the government officially flipped the switch on its health care exchanges, turning on the coverage for hundreds of thousands of skeptical plan holders.
Today, one of those plan holders, U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), is so upset about his coverage that he's suing the administration responsible for changing it. Of course, going to court over his signature law is nothing new for President Obama, whose attorneys have worn out a path to judges' benches all across the country. But unlike other high-profile cases, Sen. Johnson's challenge is unique. As a member of Congress, the Wisconsin Senator (along with every other Hill member and staff) was recently on the receiving end of a very generous gift from the Obama administration -- a special government allowance to help them buy health coverage on the exchange. As Senator Johnson points out in his Wall Street Journal op-ed, this congressional subsidy was something members of Congress already debated and rejected. Back then, lawmakers agreed that Congress should subject itself to the same health care it was forcing on the American people.
Of course, that all changed when liberals realized how fundamentally flawed the new coverage would be. So, Johnson explains, "...[Liberal members] went running to President Obama for relief. The President supplied it via the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which issued a convoluted ruling in October 2013 that ignores the clear intent and language of the law. After groping for a pretext, OPM essentially declared the federal government a small employer -- magically qualifying members of Congress for coverage through... exchanges where employers can buy insurance for their employees. Neat trick, huh? Except that in issuing the ruling... President Obama once again chose political expediency instead of faithfully executing the law."
And not just any law -- his law. Now, thanks to this special treatment, Capitol Hill is enjoying a substantial contribution to their policies from the same taxpayers who opposed the law in the first place -- and may be losing their own coverage because of it! Originally, the ObamaCare subsidies were supposed to be reserved for Americans who make less than $45,000, which is about a quarter of what a member of Congress earns. Still, the House, Senate, some political appointees, and their staffs will be the beneficiaries of another one of President Obama's adventures in lawlessness.
This may be news to the White House, but if the President wants to change his health care law, a little thing called congressional approval is required. Unfortunately, you wouldn't know that from the President's string of adaptations, deletions, and additions to ObamaCare over the past several months. In fact, the administration rammed even more exemptions down the chimney before Christmas, including the promise that people who lost their insurance could just ignore the individual mandate.
At a press conference this afternoon, Senator Johnson was outraged that lawmakers have become entangled in the administration's web of corruption. "The American people have an expectation that members of Congress should be subjected to the letter of the law just like they're held to the letter of the law. In this case, members of Congress now are not being held to the letter of the law, and that creates an alienation. It creates a wedge between a member of Congress and their constituents." Interestingly enough, the House passed a bill to strip away this same subsidy, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) used his suffocating power to block it.
The Left will have a tough time repeating that feat in court, where the administration hasn't exactly been wowing people with its ObamaCare winning percentage. So far, the White House is 7 for 53 (12%) just in cases fighting the abortifacient-contraception mandate. That includes last week's stay against HHS in the case of Little Sisters of the Poor. In that instance, even President Obama's own Supreme Court appointee, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, recognized the problem of ordering faith-based groups to violate their own beliefs. And while the high court gave Little Sisters a reprieve, Big Brother is still strong-arming other religious groups as of New Year's Day. That's when the President's mandate reprieve ran out for other organizations, which now have to choose between violating their faith, paying massive fines, or dropping insurance coverage altogether.
Robertsons Help Phil the Cultural Void
In December, the only thing ruffling more feathers than ObamaCare was the Left's campaign against "Duck Dynasty." After suspending star Phil Robertson for his pro-marriage comments, the real drama began. Viewers hit back at A&E with full force, rocking the network -- and the entire liberal establishment -- with millions of petitions demanding the popular patriarch's reinstatement. What started out as a quick capitulation to the extremists at Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) turned into the best example of the war on speech and religious liberty in America. By refusing to back down, the Robertsons became the unofficial symbol of courage and resolve in a moral battle that the media wanted Americans to believe they'd already lost.
Companies like Cracker Barrel that tried to pull Dynasty merchandise off their shelves regretted it almost immediately, as the public flooded them with angry calls, emails, and social media posts. In a matter of hours, the chain reversed the decision, coming to customers with their hat in their hands asking forgiveness. Days later, A&E followed suit -- taking Phil off probation and putting him back in the show where he belongs.
Although the victory belonged to the Robertsons, the real winners may be the American people -- who finally witnessed homosexual activists for what they are: intolerant bullies. As FRC has said for years, the goal of GLAAD and others is to silence anyone who dares challenge the idea that homosexual behavior should be celebrated. We've seen these vicious tactics used against wedding florists, bakers, photographers, sports journalists, students, and teachers who've been fired, hauled into court, fined, suspended, and ordered to violate their religious beliefs by endorsing same-sex "marriage." For once, the American people have stood up and shouted, "enough!" I had the opportunity to talk about this incredible sea change over the holidays. If you missed it, check out the video from those interviews on ABC's "Nightline" and Fox News's "Kelly File" below.
Church Loses a Legend, Gains a Legacy
Pastor Ken Hutcherson played middle linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, and San Diego Chargers -- but his biggest battle was off the field, with cancer. The 61-year-old fixture in the Christian community, who served as the beloved minister of Antioch Bible Church in Washington State, finally succumbed to his decade-long disease in late December, leaving behind a tremendous legacy of racial and cultural bridge-building. A great friend to FRC, "Hutch" was a true Watchman on the Wall who never backed down from speaking the truth on the issues that mattered most: faith, family, and freedom. While we mourn the loss, we rejoice that this spiritual giant is finally pain-free and with his Lord. Please join us in praying for the entire Hutcherson family and their church as they cope with the loss. May they find comfort in the incredible impact Ken had for the Kingdom of Christ.
** Over the Christmas break, FRC's Peter Sprigg looked back over the last 10 years of same-sex "marriage," and how the debate has changed in his new First Things column, "Marriage Is a Matter of Definition."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.