Corporate Accountability

Cruz: Treasury Dept. ‘political operatives’ might have tampered with Obamacare

By Sylvan Lane 

 

WASHINGTON–Sen. Ted Cruz on Thursday accused the Treasury Department of potentially meddling with an IRS interpretation of the Affordable Care Act to make sure low-income Americans could still get subsidized health insurance through federal exchanges.

 

“The Obama administration is trying to impose on you, personally, thousands of dollars in penalties that are contrary to law,” said Cruz, who suggested the IRS knew how to enforce the law before “political operatives” from the Treasury overruled them.

 

Cruz convened a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on how the administration created Obamacare subsidy rules. Republicans praised it as a sorely needed investigation and Democrats dismissed it as political theater.

 

“We are in a so-called hearing about the rule-making process with witnesses that have nothing to do with the rule making process,” said Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, the subcommittee’s chief Democrat.

 

The Treasury Department refused to let officials testify because of pending litigation, and Cruz threatened to subpoena them, as he did in a May 27 letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

 

Though the Treasury told Cruz they wouldn’t play ball, the jam-packed Capitol hearing room was set up for their testimony. The senators filed into a room with witness-less table, which Cruz called a symbol of the Obama administration’s “contempt for Congress” and “the height of arrogance.”

 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said he didn’t “want to suggest the empty table was used as a prop,” but the message was clear.

 

The hearing comes as the Supreme Court decides whether insurance purchased through the federal healthcare exchange is eligible for federal subsidies.

 

A section of the ACA provides subsidies for policies purchased through exchanges “established by the state.” Since 36 states refused to set up their own exchanges, the Supreme Court will rule in King v. Burwell if that legally applies to the federal exchange and could leave more than 7 million Americans without subsidized insurance.

 

Democrats suggested Cruz wait to hold the hearing until after the Supreme Courts rules so Treasury officials would testify. Cruz dismissed this, citing previous testimony from officials at a House hearing during a 2013 legal challenge to Obamacare.

 

Another panel of witnesses argued over the legal implications of the clause the Supreme Court is considering. Michael Carvin, who represents the plaintiffs in that case, said the law needed to be executed as written, and Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies for the libertarian Cato Institute, suggested a House investigation found evidence that could support Cruz’s accusation.

 

Robert Weiner, who helped craft the ACA, and Elizabeth Wydra, chief council at the Constitutional Accountability Center, said no one in Congress thought the law should be executed in any other way, and critics are taking that clause out of context.

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