The creeping insanity of the 21st century United States gets its latest affirmation in the news that Congress doesn't have to live under the laws it writes even when it claims the opposite.
Yes, of course, this is about health care. Isn't everything about health care these days?
Ah, well, back to cases. The law setting up Obamacare says lawmakers and their Washington, D.C. staffers must, like us peasants out there in the grasslands and forests, obtain coverage through the health care exchanges. (Meaning those relatively few exchanges actually being set up, but that's another issue.)
Now the hammer falls. When Congress passed this thoughtful and imaginative legislation, it failed to specify how to make the federal government keep contributing to its members' premium costs, as the case is now and long has been. This dreadful oversight puts our representatives in jeopardy of living as their constituents live -- with hands thrust in pockets, searching for funds the government says they owe. No fair! This Obamacare thing was supposed to apply only to plain old citizens.
Something had to be done. And it was. The administration last week informed our representatives that they might have to buy their insurance on exchanges, like everyone else, but that the federal government would help out with a big share of these unforeseen costs: as much as $11,000 a year for families. A couple of questions remain unresolved: 1) From what reserve does the money come? and 2) Under what lawful authority does the administration presume to raid that particular reserve to benefit members of Congress?
The improvisational character of the Obamacare drama wreaks increasing harm and confusion on people who would like to think they know where they stand with their government. But who nevertheless can't figure it out because the whole costly enterprise seems never to have invited the close attention it seemed to deserve. With administration encouragement, congressional Democrats just kind of winged it. It would all come out all right. It had to.
Winging things, when you sit in the world's most powerful legislative body, has its temptations, but mainly it indicates the dangers inherent in assigning unlimited powers to Congress.