Last August I expressed dismay at the practice of legislators voting on bills when they haven’t read. Members of Congress seem to think the idea of having them—rather than staffers—read the legislation is some kind of absurd demand by a public that doesn’t understand how things work in Washington. The justification that the politicians always give is that (a) their staffers (and/or lobbyists) have read the bills and summarized the content for them and (b) it doesn’t really matter anyway since the language is replaced with techical verbiage after the bill is passed.
These rationales have always struck me as idiotic, but they do put in context Nancy Pelosi’s infamous claim that they “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”
Now that the fog has lifted they are finding out that they still don’t understand what they voted for. But there may be an outcome they didn’t forsee:
In a new report, the Congressional Research Service says the law may have significant unintended consequences for the “personal health insurance coverage” of senators, representatives and their staff members.
For example, it says, the law may “remove members of Congress and Congressional staff” from their current coverage, in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, before any alternatives are available.
The confusion raises the inevitable question: If they did not know exactly what they were doing to themselves, did lawmakers who wrote and passed the bill fully grasp the details of how it would influence the lives of other Americans?
The law promises that people can keep coverage they like, largely unchanged. For members of Congress and their aides, the federal employees health program offers much to like. But, the report says, the men and women who wrote the law may find that the guarantee of stability does not apply to them.
“It is unclear whether members of Congress and Congressional staff who are currently participating in F.E.H.B.P. may be able to retain this coverage,” the research service said in an 8,100-word memorandum.
Such sweet irony.