Judicial Watch Challenges Congress’ Claim To Be A Small Business

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Ethan Barton Editor in Chief
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A conservative non-profit watchdog group is challenging what it views as the fraudulent registration of Congress as a small business in the District of Columbia’s Obamacare health insurance exchange.

Being considered a small business makes it possible for the exchange to give D.C. tax dollars to Congress to help pay for health insurance under Obamacare for members of Congress and their staff.

Judicial Watch announced its action with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Monday in challenging the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange’s use of local tax dollars in an effort designed to allow more than 12,000 members of Congress, staffers and their dependents to participate in the Small Business Exchange.

That figure represents approximately 86 percent of the 14,289 people enrolled in the district’s Small Business Exchange between Oct. 1 2013 and Sept. 9, 2014, according to Judicial Watch.

“It is an abuse of district taxpayers to use D.C. funds to subsidize illegal health insurance for Congress,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is unlawful and unethical for district officials to use local dollars to participate in Congress’s Obamacare fraud.”

The lawsuit “seeks to prevent at least $77 million in District funds from being used to help Congress violate the restrictions imposed on it by the Obamacare law,” a Judicial Watch statement said.

“Since November 2013, the Exchange Authority has allowed the U.S. House of Representatives … and the U.S. Senate … to use the Small Business Exchange to provide health insurance to some (but not all) congressional employees, including members of Congress and these employees’ spouses and dependents,” Judicial Watch’s appeal said.

“At all relevant times, defendants have known that the House and the Senate were participating in the Small Business Exchange to provide health insurance to some (but not all) congressional employees.”

The original lawsuit was filed Oct. 15, 2014 on behalf of D.C. resident Kirby Vining. A lower court dismissed the case on Feb. 25 after the D.C. government argued that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management could override city law, which doesn’t allow Congress to obtain benefits on the exchange

“Congress authored the law and is going to rather questionable lengths to avoid compliance with the law it drafted,” Vining said.

Washington’s law only allows small business with 50 or fewer full-time employees to participate in the exchange.

Judicial Watch exposed that the House and the Senate applications for the exchange claimed that each chamber only had 45 staff each, though Congress employs around 20,000 people. The applications also listed the legislative branch as “local/state governments.”

The names of the applications’ signatories were blacked out.

Also, Republican Sen. David Vitter introduced a bill in July that would require the president, vice president, members of Congress, and political appointees to purchase health insurance through an exchange without a federal subsidy. Vitter’s legislation followed his investigation into Congress’ registration as a small business.

Similarly, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee in June that was signed by Judicial Watch and eight other watchdog groups.

CCAGW and 15 more conservative groups also asked House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Republican Jason Chaffetz in a June 15 letter to investigate Congress’ applications.

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