Legislative negligence

Republicans assail the inconsistency in allowing a one-year delay in the employer mandate without giving the equivalent delay in the individual mandate, a point made eloquently by none-other than Jon Stewart of The Daily Show in his piercing interview with Secretary Kathleen Sebelius earlier this week.  The ACA, or “Obamacare” if you will, has already been substantively changed 19 times since its passage in 2010 with carve-outs, exemptions, delays and repeals. So it can be considered rational for the Republicans to want to tie the individual’s relief with the already given employer’s reflief.

Democrats scoff incredulously at the kamikaze stance taken by the same Party, which allowed for at least half-a-dozen major expansions of government under the last administration and an eye-raising increase in the deficit, to stand its ground at this moment.  It’s akin to a gentleman suitor not believeing a woman when she says she’s a “born-again virgin.”  The path not yet taken is always hardest when it’s first enforced.

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These stances ignore the clearest problem is clearly these members consistently commit legislative negligence by not reading and studying the government they claim to love.  Members of Congress don't read the legislation; they don't read (or know of) the Inspector General reports; they don't read the Government Accounting Office reports; they don’t read the spending reports.  It’s like operating a plane without ever having cracked open a manual to read the instructions, or being a CEO of a company and never once reading a single internal business report. 

Thus, when our elected officials sit in their Washington, D.C. perches and try and come up with "deficit reduction" solutions, they rely upon a kiddie pool of options for debt reduction rather than the ocean of government paid and sponsored reports which they could utilize to cut spending.

Two major government appropriated sources are readily available for this data.

First is the Government Accounting Office (GAO).  The GAO, according to the GAO, is “an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress.  Often called the ‘congressional watchdog,’ GAO investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars.’”  Currently there are 4,577 reports just on health care operations yet where is the equivalent conversation from our elected representatives about how American taxpayers monies can be saved by changing government spending based upon GAO recommendations?  From what I can gather from in-person conversations and news reports, the work by the GAO is not being utilized to provide debt ceiling and spending offsets.

Second is the inspector general.  Each department and agency has an inspector general, and each inspector general issues an annual “Compendium of Unimplemented Recommendations” recommendations.  Again reaching for health care since it is the main focal point of this shutdown, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Compendium is 166 pages, chock-full of advice on how the federal government can immediately cut fraduluent and wasteful programs.  Even better, the Inspector General lists (1) their exact recommendations on eliminating waste, fraud and abuse at HHS; (2) the exact legal statute which could be repealed, if necessary, to eliminate the program; (3) generally the amount of money saved; and my personal favorite (4) the excuse from the Agency as to why it has not yet implemented these recommendations.

As a baseline, members of Congress should take up all the GAO reports and Inspector General’s Compendium and implement them immediately.   From this starting point, then we can move to more political decisions, but there should be no argument that the basic functionalities of government are bi-partisan and embraced by all parties.

Furthermore, since it has been made clear by the Republican Party of their need to make cuts to Obamacare, there is also clear common ground there with the duplicative programs created by the bill.

According to the Congressional Research Service, “the precise number of new entities that will ultimately be created pursuant to PPACA is currently unknowlable” yet “some PPACA requirements may be satisfied by existing entities.”   For example, Section 1104(b) requires a review committee on operating rules for health information transactions and then goes on to state that this review committee can be the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics.  Yet the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistic has already been in operation for more than 55 years, so why not eliminate this whole new committee if an already appropriated entity has already been doing the same function for 55 years.

By reading the data provided by the government, it seems rather simple on how members can move forward from this capricious brinkmanship, but perhaps in its simplicity the lure of common sense actions is too boring when compared to the complete eradication of the “full faith and credit” of the United States government.  For me?  I think boring is just fine.  

Kim is founder and CEO of Sery Kim, LLC. She worked on the Romney and Huckabee presidential campaigns and was health care counsel to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.