The right gets confused by its own lie

Right-wing groups claim Congress is exempted from Obamacare. But five months ago, they had a very different story

Topics: Obamacare, Freedomworks, GOP Civil War, Ted Cruz, Health Care, Congress,

The right gets confused by its own lieTed Cruz (Credit: AP/David J. Phillip)

A good lie never dies, and so it is that we get Texas Sen. Ted Cruz telling Mary Matalin, sitting in for Laura Ingraham, Monday: “I think it is disgraceful that President Obama, in just a lawless move, just exempted Congress [from Obamacare].”

“If Congress gets a pass on Obamacare, you should, too,” the conservative group Freedomworks, which has been leading the push to defund the health law, demands. Then there’s John Cornyn, the number two Senate Republican, along with the Wall Street Journal editorial board and  Fox News, not to mention former senator and current Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint, and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, and all the rest. A Washington Times columnist even called it “treason.”

Sadly, but not surprisingly, they’re all lying to you. Congress did not, and never has, “exempted” itself from Obamacare. Here’s the New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn, one of the smartest writers on health care policy anywhere:



As is often the case with these arguments, this one contains an element of truth. Obamacare really does treat congressional employees differently from other people. But that’s because of an amendment written by Senator Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican. The amendment—almost certainly a political stunt designed to embarrass the Democrats—created an ambiguity in the law that the Obama administration had to clarify. Last week the administration issued a ruling and, sure enough, it is getting political grief over it. But there’s no reason it should.

Grassley offered an amendment that would kick members of Congress and their staffers off the federal employee health plan and make them enroll in the new health insurance exchanges, which are mostly for individuals who don’t get employer coverage. If not for his amendment, their insurance scheme wouldn’t have changed at all. Republicans expected Democrats would vote it down, thus giving them an opening to attack the law, but Democrats called the bluff and passed the amendment.

But what wasn’t resolved, until last week, was whether members of Congress and their employees would still get the money the government had been contributing to their health insurance premiums as their employer. Last week, the administration ruled: They would get to keep the employer contribution. That’s it.

So, in fact, members of Congress are still going to be required to use the Obamacare-created health insurance exchanges. That’s why Politifact called the exemption myth a “Pants on Fire” and FactCheck.org wrote, “No. Congress members and staffers will be required to buy insurance through the exchanges on Jan. 1.” For more, check out Ezra Klein, Steve Benen, and Jon Chait, who calls it a “toxic combination of ignorance and bad faith that has characterized the right’s approach to Obamacare.”

Don’t believe the liberal or even mainstream “liberal” media? Then take it from FreedomWorks. That’s right, the very same conservative advocacy group that’s now telling conservatives to “ready your pitchforks” over the alleged congressional exemption once said the polar exact diametrical opposite.

No, Congress Is Not Exempt From Obamacare,” reads the headline from an April 28 blog post on the group’s website from Loren Heal, who writes of the controversy over the Grassley Amendment:

Congress is not only covered by Obamacare, but members and staff can be offered only plans that are either created by Obamacare or are offered through an exchange. That isn’t how the law works for most people, but it’s not exempting anyone — it’s more restrictive.

In fact, FreedomWorks was so sure then that Congress wasn’t getting an exemption that they demanded “Politico print a retraction” after writing “a carefully crafted story” that claimed members of Congress were in secret talks to exempt themselves from Obamacare. “It isn’t true,” Heal continued. He was right then when he debunked it. That’s how we know they’re lying, and not just ignorant.

Alex Seitz-Wald

Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...