Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Posted by & filed under An Independent Viewpoint, Role of Independent Voters, The IVA Angle, WTF?

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There’s several reasons that Congress has received a consistently low approval rating from the American public, clocking in at 13% in March 2013, but the first and foremost is the propensity of our legislators on both sides of the aisle to work in their own self-interest, instead of the interest of the voters who sent them to Washington D.C. in the first place.

Yesterday, Politico’s John Breshnahan and Jake Sherman reported on the latest iteration of these Congressional shenanigans. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers are currently negotiating an exemption for lawmakers and Congressional aides from insurance exchanges they’d be required to join as part of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), because if enrolled, their personal costs (as well of the costs of their staff, aides etc) could rise dramatically when held to the same standards as the general public:
“The talks — which involve Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Obama administration and other top lawmakers — are extraordinarily sensitive, with both sides acutely aware of the potential for political fallout from giving carve-outs from the hugely controversial law to 535 lawmakers and thousands of their aides. Discussions have stretched out for months, sources said.
A source close to the talks says: “Everyone has to hold hands on this and jump, or nothing is going to get done.” Yet if Capitol Hill leaders move forward with the plan, they risk being dubbed hypocrites by their political rivals and the American public. By removing themselves from a key Obamacare component, lawmakers and aides would be held to a different standard than the people who put them in office.
If congressional lawmakers manage to work out a beneficial deal for themselves, it won’t be the first (or the last) time…In fact, just last week, Congress managed to gut last year’s STOCK Act, which if you remember, was a reactionary bill quickly thrown together in response to 60 Minutes’ excellent piece confronting Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner on congressional insider trading. Jeff Macke from Yahoo! Finance offers this take on how last year’s STOCK Act was recently neutered:
The gist is that disclosures will no longer be practically available for all employees but only for the elected officials, which means staffers, lobbyists, employees, aides and anyone who works for or is close to a serving politician can do whatever they want. Corrupt officials could theoretically still dish insider info with little fear of discovery — it’s just hard for them to trade off of the information themselves.The idea of transparency is to remove doubt about conflicts of interest and malfeasance, real or imagined. When the rules are quietly changed to such a degree, it defeats the purpose entirely.
So, in addition to Obamacare and insider trading laws, are there any other pieces of legislation that our 113th Congress exempts themselves from? Well, of course! Here’s a great list of Congressional exemptions, compiled by ProPublica. The highlights include:
  • Whistleblower Protection: Congress passed the Whistleblower Protection Act in 1989, but guess who’s not protected under it? Oh right, legislative-branch workers, including Congressional staffers. 
  • The Freedom of Information Act: While the public can request information from federal agencies, Congress and some parts of the Office of the President are exempt. 
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act:  ”The sidewalks surrounding the three House office buildings, the report noted, don’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Neither do the restrooms in the House and Senate office buildings and the Library of Congress’ James Madison Building.”
So, Independent Voters of America — just remember when it comes to the 113th Congress — Do as they say, not as they do. And would you like a side of working in your own self interest with that main dish of hypocrisy?

The fact that our Congress is able to so effortlessly exempt themselves from several of the laws they’ve recently passed is a prime example of why so many incumbent Democratic and Republican legislators deserve the scorn of independent voters across the country. If we don’t hold them accountable for this legislative frivolity, who will?

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