Congress Is Indeed ExceptionalWritten by Tim Higgins | | firstname.lastname@example.org
There is little doubt that Congress (and by this I mean both the House and the Senate) has indeed proved itself exceptional. Oh I’m not talking about its approval rating, which has remained dismal for years, and is currently hanging in there at around 15 percent according to Gallup’s April polling.
Then again, what’s there to approve of in John Boehner’s weeping middle-of-the-road statism and Harry Reid’s angry refusal to do damn near anything, even if it’s required by law. Maybe it’s not fair to pile on to the current leaders of each house however. After all, this isn’t all that unusual.
Some form of exceptionalism has been a part of our nation since congress was created. Article 1, Section 6 of the Constitution conferred on these elected officials what is traditionally called ‘Parliamentary Exclusion’; allowing them freedom from arrest (with some very a rare exceptions) during attendance at their sessions, as well as coming from and going to them.
Additional exceptions have been created for Congress by themselves over the years. Congress for example, originally excepted themselves in 1935 from paying into and receiving benefits from Social Security; keeping their own exceptional system. In 1984 they gave themselves the choice of beginning to do so or staying in the older Civil Service Retirement System.
Even those elected after 1984 are not covered by Social Security alone however. Members additionally have a defined annuity program called the Federal Employees Retirement System that pays out to them based on a percentage of the average of their top three earning years times the number of years of service. But wait, there’s more. In addition to these two plans, there’s a 401k which matches 5 percent of their contributions up to 10 percent of their salary. Don’t bother trying to calculate the numbers folks. Let’s just say that a member with over 30 years in DC should be able to retire fairly comfortably (and you know who I mean).
There have been a number of additional exceptions over the years, including one against ‘Insider Trading’ which doesn’t allow those in the private sector to use secret inside information to profit from stock trades, but did allow those in Congress to do so. Last year’s STOCK Act (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge) prevented members, their staffs, and federal employees making more that over $119,544 from using such knowledge to profit from these trades. In a rare bit of bi-partisanship however, Congress recently (and quietly) passed a repeal to the act by a unanimous consent that took some 10 seconds in the House and 14 seconds in the Senate according to their own records
Congressional medical care is the latest issue looking for an exception, not that it isn’t already exceptional. Congress is currently part of the very good Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), that takes care of their care; but that’s not all they can get. Members can pay $563 per year and receive care from the Office of the Attending Physician (who knew that existed) whether enrolled in the government plan or not; a plan that includes routine exams and some testing. They can additionally receive treatment at military bases, with no charge for Outpatient care and Inpatient care to be reimbursed by the members subject to FEHBP deductibles. Best of all, Congressional retirees can continue this lavish medical care after retirement at age 62 by no more than paying the employee premium rates
Apparently however, that’s not going to be good enough. Since what Congress currently has would undoubtedly qualify as a ‘Cadillac Medical Plan’, it would be liable for a tax penalty. Instead, Congress is now considering whether to allow themselves a full exception to the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare).
After passing something that allows Congress and unelected bureaucrats to effective take over both medical insurance and medical care in the long run, a bill that none of them read, let alone understood, and whose cost estimates are proving so grossly underestimated in premium and care costs that they border on criminal; our exceptional Congress and their exceptional staffs would like to be excepted from complying with the very laws and guidelines that they insist of for the rest of us.
What unimaginable hubris this is! Not only does it violate the very concept of American equality, but it defies logic and reason that we would allow anyone who who votes for its passage to return to elective office in any form. (I can’t help but wonder if it even violates the spirit of the 14th Amendment or “Equal Protection Clause” of the Constitution.)
Perhaps what should be considered instead is a proposal for a 28th Amendment:
“Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.”
Now that truly would be exceptional…