Maybe They Should Have Read the Bill?

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Hattip to Allahpundit at Hot Air.  Sometimes life is so much funnier than any comedy ever written.  Apparently the wise Congress Critters who passed ObamaCare may have taken away their own health insurance.  According to the New York Times:

The law apparently bars members of Congress from the federal employees health program, on the assumption that lawmakers should join many of their constituents in getting coverage through new state-based markets known as insurance exchanges.

 

But the research service found that this provision was written in an imprecise, confusing way, so it is not clear when it takes effect.

 

The new exchanges do not have to be in operation until 2014. But because of a possible “drafting error,” the report says, Congress did not specify an effective date for the section excluding lawmakers from the existing program.

 

Under well-established canons of statutory interpretation, the report said, “a law takes effect on the date of its enactment” unless Congress clearly specifies otherwise. And Congress did not specify any other effective date for this part of the health care law. The law was enacted when President Obama signed it three weeks ago.

And the citizen lawsuits to enforce this aspect of ObamaCare will begin to be filed, in Five, Four, Three…    As low an opinion as I have of Congress even I am stunned by this display of the lack of competence by those who make our laws.  Well, as Al Capp said long ago, the country is in the very best of hands.

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15 Responses to Maybe They Should Have Read the Bill?

  • I think the inability of Congressmen to read the bills they’re voting on speaks volumes about the need for a diminished size of government-including the states, but especially at the federal level. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you shouldn’t be doing it.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    “If you don’t know what you’re doing, you shouldn’t be doing it.”

    I have often given that advice to clients in almost precisely those words!

  • Blackadder says:

    And the citizen lawsuits to enforce this aspect of ObamaCare will begin to be filed, in Five, Four, Three…

    What are “citizen lawsuits”?

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    Suits by non-members of Congress to enforce this provision, although considering all the publicity it is now getting I think some members of Congress might join in.

  • Robert says:

    Congressional bills are not made to be read. If you ever try to take a look at them, the actual language makes no sense because most of the time, it is an amendment to the US Code. So the health care bill is nonsensical to 95% of the population because it contains numerous legal changes. I’d actually be angry if they did waste their time reading every page of the bill. Not caring what was in it is a different matter….

    Also, the provision was a political stunt to show that Congress is a bunch of normal people as well. It was supposed to be removed in the final bill, but sometimes politics gets in the way.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    “Congressional bills are not made to be read.”
    Actually they are read all the time by attorneys like me. Congress has the resources to have had this bill read over countless times by staff attorneys who could have made the members aware of booby-traps in the bill like this one.

  • Robert says:

    Agreed. I just hate when people criticize member’s of Congress for not reading legislation. I think it’s valid to wonder why their staff isn’t preparing them better.

  • As someone who lacks an understanding of how many of these legal issues of standing and such work, can the lawyers here help me understand a bit how something like this works?

    As I understand the NY Times piece, the legislation as passed includes a provision that members of congress no longer be included in the federal employee health plan. Through an oversight, this provision appears to go into effect before the insurance exchanges are available as fall-back.

    I would assume, neither those in congress nor the current administration is all that enthusiastic to revoke coverage from representatives and their staffs before the exchanges are available.

    Is any particular group within the government required to enforce the provision as written? Or is BA saying that this would never go into effect because there would be no one with both the interest and the standing to insist on enforcement?

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    I doubt if they would be held ultimately to have standing, although I am not certain on that point. What I am certain of is that suits will be filed and that the publicity that this will gain will further lower, if that is possible, the view of the public as to the competency of Congress.

  • Paul Zummo says:

    Vis a vis staff reading the legislation: sometimes the doesn’t even do that. I know someone who is a staff member for a Senator, and they were completely blindsided by a provision in the Stimulus Bill that they didn’t realize was in the bill – word searches failed to pick up on the provision because of the way it was worded. So yeah, it’s remarkable what gets into these bills without either the reps or their staff knowing.

  • Ed Blackadder says:

    Darwin,

    A citizen suit to enforce the provision would, I think, go nowhere, as there would not be standing to sue. My understanding is that the OPM would be charged to enforce the statute. If the issue really is clear cut I expect the OPM would enforce the law, but if congress makes a big enough squawk they might choose to interpret the statute to have a later effective date (assuming a non-frivolous argument can be made on that score).

  • Kurt says:

    Is any particular group within the government required to enforce the provision as written?

    Yes. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has the duty to enforce this. They would treat such persons just like anyone else who lost their eligibility to participate in FEHBP.

    It should be noted that this provision was not written by the Democrats but came from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Grassley is not known as a deep thinker or particularly good legislative draftsman.

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    This is a problem at the state level too. I deal all the time with the consequences of bills that pass the Illinois General Assembly without legislators having taken the time to read them. Agency rules and regulations can be just as bad, if the agency hasn’t taken the time to read the bill/statute that the rules are supposed to implement. I am sure this happens at the federal level also.

  • Blackadder says:

    My understanding is that the OPM would be charged to enforce the statute. If the issue really is clear cut I expect the OPM would enforce the law, but if congress makes a big enough squawk they might choose to interpret the statute to have a later effective date

    Looks like it’s the latter.

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