This week, Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL) introduced companion bills to the Senate and House respectively that would name an Inspector General to investigate Obamacare overspending and abuses.
Since the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the Obama administration has made 31 significant changes in the implementation of the act without going to Congress to obtain statutory authority.
With these bills, lawmakers are finally attempting to reassert some constitutional control over the executive branch’s usurpations of its legislative authority.
It is unclear whether these bills will pass both houses. If they do, an Obama veto is likely, and the ball would be in Congress’s court to secure the 2/3 vote necessary to override such a veto.
The bills were proposed as the nation awaits the Supreme Court’s King v. Burwell decision, expected next month, which could completely unravel the implementation of the Affordable Care Act by voiding the issuance of Obamacare tax credits to residents of the 37 states that chose not to establish their own health care exchanges.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Roskam said his bill, H.R. 2400, would “create a Special Inspector General for Monitoring the Affordable Care Act (SIGMA). The bill is supported by all Majority members of the Oversight Subcommittee and all key oversight subcommittee chairs, as well as a wide array of prominent conservative advocacy organizations.”
“In the years since Democrats rammed Obamacare through Congress, our country has already seen the costly consequences of this law: billions of dollars wasted on a failed website and overpayments, millions of Americans kicked off their healthcare plans, and skyrocketing premiums for hardworking families and small businesses,” said Roskam, who is chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee.
“Now, a pending Supreme Court decision threatens to upend the law—casting further uncertainty over the future of our entire healthcare system,” Roskam added.
“We need assurance that—until Obamacare is repealed and replaced—there is rigorous oversight in place to prevent more taxpayer dollars from being squandered on this law. A SIGMA alone would have needed authority to oversee all federal agencies involved in implementing and administering Obamacare and protect the American people from its harmful effects. I want to thank my colleagues for their strong support of this measure to finally hold the Administration accountable for this broken law,” Roskam concluded.
“We need to do everything possible to repeal and replace Obamacare with real health reforms that lower costs and restore the all-important relationship between a patient and their doctor,” adds Senator Roberts. “However, as long as this law is on the books, we need a watchdog, namely a Special Inspector General, to investigate its implementation and ensure our taxpayer dollars are being spent within the letter of the law.”
As the Topeka Capital-Journal reported, Roberts introduced his companion bill in the Senate the same day Roskam introduced his bill in the House.
The first 20 pages of the 47-page bill are a listing of 70 complaints about the Affordable Care Act, the manner in which it was passed through Congress and how it has been implemented since becoming law in 2010.
“The writing, passage, and implementation of the Affordable Care Act has utterly lacked transparency,” the first complaint states.
The legislation would require President Barack Obama to appoint someone as “special inspector general for monitoring of the Affordable Care Act” within 30 days of the bill becoming law. The appointment would require consent by the Senate.
The special inspector general would have 32 aspects of the ACA to audit and investigate, including the payment of mandates, increases or decreases in insurance premiums, increases or decreases to the size of physician networks and “the impact of the Affordable Care Act on the right of conscience.”
According to Roberts, “[t]his watchdog would ensure that Obamacare exchange websites are functioning and secure. It also would monitor the IRS to make sure there’s no fraud with regard to the federal subsidies. It’s a big challenge.”
Though “[t]he new inspector general would have the power to investigate and subpoena any federal agency involved in implementing the ACA, including the White House, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Defense and others, . . . The new inspector general [and] two assistant inspector generals . . . would report directly to the secretary of health and human services, currently Sylvia Burwell,” Topeka Capital-Journal reported.
Such a reporting relationship could dampen the effectiveness and independence of the proposed inspector general position. While the number of inspector generals throughout the departments and agencies of the executive branch has increased dramatically since the passage of the Inspector General Act of 1978, the executive branch’s lack of accountability to Congressional authority has skyrocketed during that same period.
Senator Roberts, however, believes the establishment of an inspector general dedicated specifically to oversight of Obamacare will have significant benefits.
“While all of the federal agencies charged with implementing Obamacare have their own Offices of the Inspector General, they are all investigating this law in their own silos,” he told Topeka Capital-Journal . “The Health and Human Services inspector general isn’t talking to the Treasury IG, or the Department of Labor IG, or the Homeland Security IG.”
“With so many federal entities charged with overseeing different parts of this $2 trillion law, we must make sure that there is at least one office that can protect the taxpayer and the patient,” he concluded.
Tea Party activists have been pressuring the Republican Congress to repeal Obamacare in its entirety since the GOP became the majority in the House of Representatives after the 2010 midterms.
Now that the GOP has the majority in the Senate after the 2014 midterms, pressure on Republicans to do just that has ratcheted up, while expectations among Tea Partiers that they will deliver on that long unfulfilled promise have continued to slide.
Nashville Tea Party founder Ben Cunningham thinks the Obamacare watchdog bills proposed by Roberts and Roskam are pretty weak medicine.
“Really? Another inspector general to tell us Obamacare is a disaster?” Cunningham asks.
“We don’t need another taxpayer funded bureaucrat wagging their finger at us,” Cunningham tells Breitbart News.
“It is time to end the show votes to repeal and stop the attempts to ‘fix’ Obamacare. Obamacare is a train wreck and the only reasonable use of Congress’s time and resources is to dismantle this freedom destroying monstrosity ASAP,” Cunningham says.
Cunningham’s sentiments are shared by other Tea Party activists.
“I hope for once, the GOP is serious about fighting Obamacare,” Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation tells Breitbart News.
“This exemplifies the problem the Republican Party has today. According to Pew Research, only 37 percent of Republicans believe the Republican leadership will keep their campaign promises. This is the chance for the GOP to stand and prove conservatism is more than just a punch line for them,” Phillips adds.
The introduction of these companion bills in the Senate and the House is seen as a sign that there may be some fight left in at least several members of the Republican establishment in Congress. Some Tea Party activists believe a law that adds a new inspector general is a very modest first step.
“We know a bill is a failure when a watchdog has to be appointed to guard against its mishaps,” Zan Green, founder of the Rainy Day Patriots Tea Party of Birmingham, Alabama tells Breitbart News.
Roberts introduced a similar bill establishing an Obamacare watchdog, the SIGMA Act of 2014, last June, but that bill died in committee. Tea Party activists are hopeful these two new bills will not meet the same fate.
But in 2015, as in 2010, Tea Party activists simply want Congress to bring Obamacare to an end.
“Perhaps this is a good place to start,” Virginia Tea Party activist Mark Kevin Lloyd tells Breitbart News, “but repeal is the ultimate goal.”
“To date,” Lloyd adds, “the GOP has squandered the astounding electoral gains of 2014 at every opportunity. I would like to remind the GOP you were elected to actually be an opposition party. You were not elected to work with Obama or give him more power. You were not elected to grow increase the size and scope of an already bloated government.”