In the unending Obamacare war in Congress, Sen. Rand Paul has raised the stakes: he is proposing a constitutional amendment that would stop lawmakers from passing legislation that doesn't apply equally to U.S. citizens and members of Congress, the executive branch, and the Supreme Court. It's a move aimed squarely at Obamacare, and more specifically, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
Paul told the Daily Caller on Sunday:
"My amendment says basically that everybody including Justice Roberts — who seems to be such a fan of Obamacare — gets it too. See, right now, Justice Roberts is still continuing to have federal employee health insurance subsidized by the taxpayer. And if he likes Obamacare so much, I’m going to give him an amendment that gives Obamacare to Justice Roberts."
Roberts wrote the opinion that upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act last year.
Conservatives in the Senate have raged against a so-called Obamacare "exemption" for lawmakers since 2010. It was then that Sen. Chuck Grassley proposed an amendment mandating that all lawmakers and their staffs buy into the exchanges — losing their coverage on the federal health insurance plan — so that Congress would have a stake in the efficacy of the health care law. Democrats agreed, and the amendment was passed. Later, the Office of Policy Management ruled in August that the government could still contribute to employee health plans bought through the exchanges. As The Atlantic Wire has noted, this does not make Obamacare "apply" to Congress — it makes a special rule for Congress.
This summer, Vitter proposed his own amendment, which aimed to take away these employer contributions to the health care of members of Congress and their staff. The Vitter amendment became one of the main points of contention during the shutdown fight, and GOP staffers anonymously spoke to The New Yorker and Mother Jones, expressing frustration that their bosses wanted to get rid of employer contributions to their health care. GOP lawmakers responded by kicking their staffers out of Vitter amendment discussions. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz advocated expanding the amendment to include all D.C. federal workers, like teachers and police officers.
In the end, the Vitter amendment was killed during shutdown negotiations, and staffers breathed a sigh of relief that they would not be handed a big pay cut so that their bosses could take a stand against Obamacare. But now that the shutdown is over, Paul is back hammering away at the same issue.
As Politico points out, Paul has a tough road ahead of him if he wants to amend the Constitution. It's "no easy task, requiring super majorities in both chambers of Congress before going to the states for ratification."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.