House Republicans took a big step Wednesday toward passage of Rep. Diane Black’s No Subsidies Without Verification Act, a bill that would prohibit distribution of federal health insurance premium subsidies until a system is in place to verify applicant eligibility, as required by the law establishing Obamacare. The entire Republican caucus – joined by a single Democrat – supported the measure in a preliminary vote and final passage is expected today. The bill should be incorporated in the forthcoming continuing resolution for 2014.
The Tennessee Republican introduced her measure because the Department of Health and Human Services recently adopted an Obamacare regulation decreeing that the federal government would not verify whether applicants actually qualified for aid under the law. This means an individual who, for example, earns $100,000 a year and gets insurance through his employer can tell the government he only earns $20,000, and doesn’t get employer-provided insurance. The U.S. Treasury would then begin sending generous tax-paid health insurance subsidies to that individual and nobody in government would have a clue.
This is a recipe for an epidemic of fraud, which is already endemic in Medicare and Medicaid. Black’s bill, H.R. 2775, prohibits the payment of any health insurance subsidies until the common-sense income verification and anti-fraud requirements Congress included in Obamacare’s enabling legislation are implemented by HHS.
Laudable as it is, Black’s bill does not go far enough. The No Subsidies Without Verification Act is a stand-alone bill that, while putting Obamacare supporters in the uncomfortable position of voting for fraud, is also guaranteed never to be taken up by the Senate. Right now it is nothing more than a messaging bill — a good messaging bill, to be sure, but not a bill that actually protects American taxpayers. If conservatives are serious about preventing fraud and protecting American taxpayers, they must attach the Black measure to one or the other upcoming spending measures that are sure to cause drama in both chambers and the White House.
Obama is president, not dictator. He does not have the right to unilaterally rewrite federal law through selective enforcement like he is doing with Obamacare. Unfortunately, the American people are often unable to check Obama through the federal courts since few, if any of them, can establish the standing to sue. That means Congress is the American people’s last line of defense, which in turn means the House must insist — as the Democratic Senate won’t — that Obama enforce the law in a fair and impartial manner.
It is for just such a purpose that the Constitution gives the House, not the Senate and not the president, the power of the purse. Whether it is a vote on a temporary government funding resolution this month, or the debt limit in October, or a year-long funding resolution this winter, sooner or later House Republicans must stop the parade of meaningless Obamacare votes and actually stand their ground.