Powerful litmus test for leadership • The Hill

House leadership elections are now set for Oct. 8. How do we know a new Speaker will be any different than the previous one?

The complaint against leadership has been that there is more they could have done, even with Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in the Senate and Barack Obama in the White House. Too much lip-service to principle, and acquiescence to business as usual.

So how will we know that any new leadership team will be different? How will we know that they will line up with their constituents against Washington, rather than with Washington against their constituents? Everyone will say they oppose Obamacare and funding Planned Parenthood given its track record. There are solid conservatives on both sides of the divisions over strategy and tactics as we try to figure out the best way to navigate high passage hurdles and likely vetoes.

But there’s a very simple litmus test to immediately tell who puts their money where their mouth is – literally – when they say they are faithful to their constituents’ interests, believe that Congress should live under the same laws as the rest of us, and will do whatever they can to repeal and replace Obamacare.

When Congress enacted Obamacare the law specified that Congress and its staff would live under all the law's requirements and go on to the exchanges same as everyone else who went on the exchanges.

Since passage, however, Congress sought and the White House granted a special exemption that does two things: it exempts some staff entirely, and it provides Members of Congress and staff, regardless of income, Gold Level coverage with a 75 percent subsidy of costs, worth about $5,000 for a single individual and $11,000 for a family, something which would be illegal for any other American to receive or business to provide.

Undoing this exemption would give members and staff, regardless of party, a huge personal incentive to repeal Obamacare and reform medical care.

Consequently, in both House and Senate, legislation has been introduced that would reverse this special exemption for Congress. In the House, it’s Rep. DeSantis’ (R-Fla.) H.R. 1953; in the Senate, it’s Sen. Vitter’s (R-La.) S. 16.

But leadership has never allowed it a vote—even though Obama won’t veto. It’s one that members and senators and their staffs, working with some conservative outside grassroots groups staffed with former staffers, have done everything they can to prevent seeing daylight.

The American people need to stake out a litmus test: No one should be Speaker unless he or she will commit to immediately initiate a straight vote on overturning the special exemption from ObamaCare and require Congress to live under its own laws without special exemptions.

No sitting senator or congressman will have the nerve to lead the charge on that for fear of internal blowback. But Carly Fiorina suggested it on Meet the Press, and if the American people make this an issue, it could initiate the cultural change Washington so desperately needs.

Higgins is president and CEO of Independent Women’s Voice, which maintains the Repeal Pledge on Obamacare.

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