End the Obamacare Exemption for Congress

Background: Back in 2013, the Obama administration’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) exempted members of Congress and their staff from the full burden of Obamacare by letting them enroll in the D.C. small business exchange to receive taxpayer subsidized plans, even though a small business was defined as fewer than 50 employees. Now, as millions of Americans continue to watch their health insurance premiums increase, members of Congress and their staffs remain exempt from the rising costs.

Problem: Indicative of the lawlessness of the Obama administration, Congress actually pleaded behind closed doors for the president to grant them a special exemption. Although Obamacare was signed into law in 2010, its provisions that pertain to Congress were phased in years later — just when Obamacare was starting to unravel. With their personal interest now at stake, members took a closer look at what the law required of them. A Heritage Foundation legal memoexplained at the time:

“One such provision is Section 1312(d)(3)(D), which reads: ‘Notwithstanding any other provision of law … the only health plans that the Federal Government may make available to Members of Congress and congressional staff … shall be health plans that are … created under this Act … or … offered through an Exchange established under this Act….’. Under this provision, it is clear that Members of Congress and their staff should lose their current employer-sponsored health insurance program.”

Members and their staff were initially required to opt-into Obamacare; however, President Obama’s OPM stepped in at the last minute to grant a taxpayer subsidized exemption — by redefining Congress to qualify as a “small business” under a separate part of the law. Heritage
Action explained in a coalition letter:

“Obama directed OPM to issue a rule purporting that Congress, which has thousands of employees, is a small business and therefore: ‘the DC Health Link Small Business Market administered by the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority, is the appropriate SHOP from which Members of Congress and designated congressional staff will purchase health insurance in order to receive a Government contribution.’”

This maneuvering is the exact problem in Washington, D.C. — premiums double for the American people and Congress illegally forces taxpayers to subsidize their premiums.

Solution: Fortunately, just as the Obama administration’s OPM unilaterally established the Congressional exemption, so also can the Trump administration’s OPM rescind the rule. A coalition of conservative groups, including Heritage Action, sent a letter to President Trump on July 21, 2017, urging the President to take this step. Weeks later, the Senate essentially abandoned its effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

If the Republican-controlled Senate cannot deliver on their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, President Trump should subject Congress to the full brunt of the law until they do so. Trump should unilaterally undo Obama’s illegal exemption, requiring members of Congress to live under the law it forced onto the American people. Facing the reality of double-digit premium increases, Congress may feel pressure to come back to the negotiating table and follow through on years of promises to finally end the Obamacare nightmare.

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No More Obamacare Bailouts

Background: In an effort to win the support of health insurance companies during the debate over Obamacare in 2009, three health insurer bailout provisions were written into the bill to compensate health insurance companies for insuring high-cost consumers in the Obamacare state exchanges. These three bailout provisions include risk corridors, reinsurance and cost-sharing reduction subsidies. Combined, these could cost taxpayers $170 billion over the next decade. The risk corridor and reinsurance provisions expired last year, while cost-sharing reduction subsidies are currently in flux.

Cost-Sharing Reduction Subsidies: This third Obamacare bailout provision uses taxpayer dollars to subsidize health insurance deductibles and co-payments for plans bought by households with incomes less than 250 percent of the federal poverty line. While Obamacare intended to create cost-sharing reduction subsidies, the bill text does not include language funding the subsidies. However, the Obama administration ignored the plain reading of the law and paid for the subsidies using taxpayer dollars to the tune of nearly $14 billion.

In response, Congress sued the Obama administration in November of 2014 in U.S. House of Representatives v. Burwell. The House argued that the White House violated its Constitutional authority by spending money not authorized by Congress. In May of 2016, federal district court Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled in favor of the House, but the Obama administration appealed the decision to the D.C. Circuit Court. Now with President Trump in the White House, the last Obamacare bailout can be eliminated permanently. All President Trump has to do is accept the court’s initial ruling and stop paying the subsidies.

Problem: Since the November 2016 elections, congressional Republicans worked on legislation to repeal and replace parts of Obamacare. The House narrowly passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) on May 4th, 2017 by a vote of 217 to 213, but Senate Republicans failed to pass their version of the bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) or even a scaled down version of Obamacare repeal called the “Skinny Repeal” bill. The latter failed when moderate Republicans refused to allow the bill to proceed to a conference committee where revised legislation could have been crafted and voted on.

Instead of repealing and replacing Obamacare, moderate Republicans are now working with Democrats to appropriate the Obamacare cost-sharing reduction subsidies to bail out insurance companies and prop up Obamacare. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced the Help, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee that he chairs would hold a hearing in early September “on the actions Congress should take to stabilize and strengthen [Obamacare’s] individual health insurance market, so that Americans will be able to buy insurance at affordable prices in the year 2018.”

Ed Haislmaier, an expert in health care policy and markets at The Heritage Foundation, explains the continuation of the cost-sharing reduction subsidies “will not help stabilize the broader individual market because the cost-sharing reductions apply only to plans purchased through the Obamacare exchanges.”

Solution: Under Obamacare, average individual market premiums more than doubled while health insurance companies fled the marketplace leaving 70 percent of U.S. counties with only one or two insurers. This all took place while President Obama was illegally paying out the cost-sharing subsidies. Authorizing the subsidies will do nothing to fix the underlying problems of our broken U.S. health care system spurred on by Obamacare. “What is instead needed to stabilize the unsubsidized market is the removal of Obamacare’s cost-increasing insurance mandates and misguided regulations,” Haislmaier explained. Heritage Action chief executive officer Michael A. Needham recently stated:

“The Senate’s inability to produce 51 votes for a piece of legislation that delivers on a seven-year campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare is not license for a bipartisan bailout of a failing law. Networks continue to narrow. Premiums continue to rise. And choice continues to decline. Obamacare is becoming a zombie law, and throwing more taxpayer money at Zombiecare is unacceptable.”

Senate Republicans must go back to the drawing board and find consensus on a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Until they do so, President Trump could simply withhold the Obamacare cost-sharing reduction subsidies and demand Republicans fulfill their seven-year old promise to repeal this disastrous law.

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Employee Rights Act (ERA) Toolkit

Earlier this year, Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) introduced the Employee Rights Act (H.R. 2723). This legislation would protect workers from union pressure by putting power in the hands of employees and making union leaders more accountable to their members.

For decades, and especially under the Obama administration, numerous rules that infringe on workers’ rights have been imposed on the American people. This is not only unproductive and wasteful in economic terms — it undermines individual liberty.

Today, conservatives have the opportunity to reverse such abuses and protect workers from government and union overreach. Making sure your Representative cosponsors the Employee Rights Act is a critical first step.  

Key Talking Points:

  • The Employee Rights Act would protect employees from union overreach by guaranteeing employees the right to:
    • Use a secret ballot when voting to ensure employees are protected from intimidation and reprisals by union bosses.
    • Decide when and if their union can spend money on matters unrelated to collective bargaining, a tactic union leaders often use to fund liberal candidates or causes without the explicit permission of their members.
    • Opt out of having their personal contact information provided to an organizing drive, a tactic used by unions to pass their private information to groups they politically disagree with.
  • These provisions are common sense protections. In fact, recent polling has found that between 64 and 88 percent of union households support each provision.

To learn more read the full Sentinel brief available here.

(Make sure to insert the twitter handle of your Representative)

  • @MEMBER cosponsor the Employee Rights Act. A majority of union households support its provisions. #ERA
  • @MEMBER Employee Rights Act would make union leaders more accountable to their members and protect workers. #ERA
  • @MEMBER outdated labor laws should be replaced with sensible policy. Employee Rights Act solves problems workers face today. #ERA
  • Congress has opportunity to restore workers’ rights. @MEMBER Americans want #ERA

General Tweets:

  • #ERA would reverse growing trend of overreach by union bosses. Employee rights — not labor union rights — must be restored.
  • Numerous #Obama labor rules imposed on the American people still infringe on workers’ rights. It’s time for Employee Rights Act #ERA
  • Gov’t shouldn’t tip the scale in relationship between unions & workers. Employee Rights Act establishes proper roles. #ERA

These are notes to use when calling your member of Congress. You can find their phone number on the Heritage Action Dashboard.

Hi, I’m [NAME] from [STATE].

Rep. Phil Roe introduced the Employee Rights Act (H.R. 2723) and I noticed the Congressman is not a cosponsor. This legislation would protect workers from union pressure by putting power back in the hands of employees and making union leaders more accountable to their members.

Workers should not be pressured or coerced by unions or union bosses to take actions that undermine their rights. ERA provides common sense solutions to these problems – polling shows between 71 and 88 percent of union households support ERA’s provisions.

Please tell the Congressman to co-sponsor Employee Rights Act. The bill now has over 80 cosponsors, and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce has held hearings. It’s time to reform outdated labor laws and ensure essential rights of employees are protected.

Below is a sample letter to the editor. We encourage you to adapt and personalize the letter below. Heritage Action Regional Coordinators are always here to help edit your letter and get it published.

Congressman [X], Support Employee Rights

Though the purpose of labor unions is ostensibly to protect workers, they often fail to do so because they are motivated by the “institutional objectives” of expanding in size, income and influence.

For decades, and especially under the Obama administration, numerous rules that infringe on workers’ rights have been imposed on the American people. This is not only unproductive and wasteful in economic terms — it negates individual liberty.

Workers deserve a say in decisions that put their jobs at risk. The Employee Rights Act would amend this by requiring a secret ballot vote before a union can call a strike. Furthermore, the bill would solidify paycheck protection provisions, provide a mechanism for union re-certification, and finally criminalize union threats under federal law.

If passed and signed into law, this legislation would solve many problems workers face today, including problems enshrined in current labor law. The bill would help restore a balance of power in the workplace from unions to workers and help ensure labor unions best serve the interests of employees, not union bosses.

Congressman [X] should support individual employee rights by cosponsoring the Employee Rights Act.

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Heritage Action Supports Rep. Andy Biggs’ Farewell to Unnecessary Energy Lifelines (Fuel) Act

This week, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) introduced the Farewell to Unnecessary Energy Lifelines (Fuel) Act of 2017 (H.R. 3419). This legislation would repeal all Department of Agriculture biofuel and energy subsidy programs contained within Title IX of the 2014 Farm Bill. These programs include: Biobased Markets Program, Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program, Repowering Assistance Program, Biorefinery Program for Advanced Biofuels, Biodiesel Fuel Education Program, Rural Energy for America Program, Biomass Research and Development Initiative, Feedstock Flexibility Program for Bioenergy Producers, Biomass Crop Assistance Program and the Community Wood Energy Program.

Previous estimates found that eliminating the biofuel energy subsidy programs in Title IX would save taxpayers $694 million in mandatory spending and $765 million in discretionary spending over five years. The bill would also help level the playing field for all energy sources to compete with one another in the free market without special treatment from the federal government.

Nick Loris, Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow in Energy and Environmental Policy at The Heritage Foundation, expands upon the problem of favoritism in his 2016 report Eliminate Favorable Treatment of Biofuels:

“Over the years, federal policies have blocked access to opportunities, unnecessarily delayed projects, mandated expensive energy production, restricted choice, and given handouts to politically connected energy technologies. Politicians tout these programs as a way to usher in new technologies that will provide jobs and stimulate the economy. In reality, rather than providing an opportunity for all to compete, these policies allocate special benefits to the well-connected. Biofuel policy, through the farm bill and other pieces of legislation, has certainly been an example of such favoritism.”

The Fuel Act represents a necessary first step in the process of rolling back the federal government’s role in the forced production and consumption of biofuels. This bill would empower individuals including energy producers, farmers and consumers to produce, use and buy the goods and services that are right for them to the benefit of the agricultural economy as a whole. Loris continues:

“Reducing government intervention in the biofuel sector and agricultural economy broadly would allow the most competitive elements of the biofuel industry to thrive in a free market. Competition driven by individuals would drive economic growth and benefit all of rural America, not just those special interests that are well-connected in Washington.”

***Heritage Action supports the legislation, encourages Representatives and Senators to support it, and reserves the right to key vote in the future.***

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ACTIVISM TOOLKIT: SNAP (Foodstamps)

Last month, Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 2996). This legislation builds on the success of President Clinton’s 1996 welfare reform that requires able bodied adults to be engaged in some sort of work or work activity in order to receive welfare benefits.

Conservatives should work to get their representatives to be co-sponsors of the SNAP act. The goal is to get as many Republican members on the bill to gain momentum to have a full floor vote on the bill.

Key Talking Points: 

  • The SNAP Reform Act would would help reduce poverty and government dependency, increase self-sufficiency, and restore families by strengthening the effective and popular work requirements for all “able-bodied adults without dependents” or ABAWDs. These include adults between the ages of 18 and 49 who are not disabled and who have no children to support. 
  • 90% of Americans believe that able-bodied adults receiving means-tested welfare assistance should be required to work or prepare for work.
  • From 2000 to 2015, food stamp recipients increased by more than 28 million and cost the government $83.1 billion in FY 2014 alone.
  • In FY 2014, Maine implemented a work requirement for ABAWDs. After the implementation of the work requirement, Maine’s ABAWD caseload dropped by 80 percent within just a few months. If a federal work requirement for ABAWDs were enacted and achieved the same level of success as was achieved in Maine, the reform could save taxpayers up to $9.7 billion annually.

To learn more read the full Sentinel brief available here.

(Make sure to insert the twitter handle of your Representative)

  • @MEMBER co-sponsor #SNAPreform Act of 2017. 90% of Americans support work requirements
  • @MEMBER #SNAPreform would help end government dependence and save taxpayers billions of dollars
  • @MEMBER work requirements for able-bodied adults to receive food stamps is sensible, effective policy #SNAPreform
  • Welfare programs should have the goal of getting people back to work. @MEMBER Americans want #SNAPreform

General Tweets:

  • #SNAPreform would help reduce poverty & government dependency, increase self-sufficiency, and restore families
  • #FoodStamps have grown out-of-control in recent years, both in cost and in the number of recipients. It’s time for #SNAPreform
  • Work requirements have been implemented in Maine, Kansas & Alabama with great success. It’s time for all of America to have #SNAPreform
  • Welfare programs, including food stamps, should be temporary, limited in size and scope, and assist those truly in need. #SNAPreform

These are notes to use when calling your member of Congress. You can find their phone number on the Heritage Action Dashboard.

Hi, I’m [NAME] from [STATE].

The goal of welfare programs should be to increase self-sufficiency and decrease government dependency. However food stamp recipients have increased at an alarming rate, and so has spending for the program. It doubled under Bush and doubled again under Obama. It’s time for reform.

Rep. Garret Graves introduced Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 2996) and I noticed the Congressman is not a co-sponsor. This bill would encourage millions of Americans to get back to work, help end the cycle of poverty for those dependent on government assistance, and save taxpayers billions of dollars. 

Able-bodied adults without dependents should be required to work or prepare for work in exchange for government assistance — and 90% of Americans agree.

Please tell the Congressman to co-sponsor the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017. It’s time to reform the food stamp program to ensure it serves those truly in need.

The goal is to get all Republican members on the co-sponsor list, however we are starting with asking Conservative members to add their names.

COMING SOON

Will be all Republican members minus the co-sponsors

Below is a sample letter to the editor. We encourage you to adapt and personalize the letter below. Heritage Action Regional Coordinators are always here to help edit your letter and get it published.

Congressman X, Support Work for Welfare

Over the past two decades Congress has let the Food Stamp Program, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, grow out-of-control.

From 2000 to 2015, the number of food stamp recipients increased from around 17 million to more than 45 million while government spending on the program rose from just over $20 billion to $83 billion! Alarmingly, the most rapidly growing group of Americans receiving food stamps is able-bodied adults without kids.

President Ronald Reagan once said: “We should measure welfare’s success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added.” Millions of our fellow adult citizens without children are living off taxpayer dollars without working. It’s time for the party of Reagan to step up and help solve the problem.

Inspired by the success of the 1996 work for welfare reforms, Representative Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 2996). This bill enacts work requirements on able-bodied adults without dependents as a condition to receive food stamp benefits. An overwhelming 90 percent of Americans agree that able-bodied adults receiving means-tested welfare assistance should be required to work or prepare for work.

If passed and signed into law, this legislation would encourage millions of Americans to get back to work, help end the cycle of poverty for those dependent on government assistance, and save taxpayers billions of dollars.

Congressman [X] should support work for welfare reform by cosponsoring the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017.

  

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