Obamacare Center Deserves Same Harsh Rebuke As Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Jared Whitley Contributor
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One of the hallmarks of Barack Obama’s charm offensive has been exploiting his celebrity with popular interviewers, whether it’s dancing with Ellen or getting coffee with Jerry Seinfeld. It can be fun and different to see a political figure interviewed by the kind of people who don’t normally interview the president.

There’s one interview I am dying to see in his last days as president, though I know it’s a fantasy: President Obama interviewed by Senator Obama.

I think the two would have very differing opinions. As I pointed out in an article for The Weekly Standard, (state) Sen. Obama condemned “federal agents poking around our libraries” … but Pres. Obama has overseen the most massive violation of privacy in American history. He (and a chorus of monotone voices) condemned the Bush presidency as “imperial” … but Emperor Obama has disregarded checks, balances, and oversight whenever it suited him.

Through executive orders and the regulatory arm of the federal bureaucracy, the Obama administration has grabbed legislative power which should belong to Congress.

A choice example of this was the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, set up after the financial crisis (one of those crises that Rahm Emmanuel didn’t let go to waste). As the name indicates, the goal is to protect consumers from exploitation by predatory lenders and others in the financial sector. A reasonable goal, but its implementation was beyond imperial.

The CFPB was designed to operate outside of traditional government authority, receiving its funding from the Fed rather than the Administration or Congress – and with no transparency for that budget. Its director (currently Richard Cordray) is appointed to a five-year term, exceeding that of the president. It has broad, sweeping powers and virtually no accountability.

Luckily, the DC Appeals court ruled the CFPB unconstitutional recently. The judgement stated:

The Director enjoys significantly more unilateral power than any single member of any other independent agency. By “unilateral power,” we mean power that is not checked by the President or by other colleagues. Indeed, other than the President, the Director of the CFPB is the single most powerful official in the entire United States Government, at least when measured in terms of unilateral power.

In other words, this emperor has no clothes on – and the courts were good enough to tell him to go cover up.

We hope that a similar ruling will come for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), created under the Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, which was designed to likewise enjoy the same kind of unrestricted, unchecked power as the CFPB.

As Edward Woodson eloquently wrote in The Blaze, under Obama the CMMI has wide powers for “improving” Medicare:

CMMI conducts what are purportedly “pilot studies” to examine how to reduce costs. The office is granted the authority to waive virtually any part of current Medicare law in its “studies.” Then, if it concludes that its own study was a success, CMMI can force the entire Medicare program to adopt whatever it was testing.

This is one of those “we have to pass the bill to see what’s in the bill” moments that we were warned about. Notice that nowhere in CMMI’s mandate is an accounting for Congress or the President, both of whom are accountable to voters, which the Federal bureaucracy isn’t.

Part of the goal of CMMI’s “independence” is to “overcome antireform inertia” (which is such a great euphemism for authoritarianism it sounds like George Orwell). If that’s “overcoming inertia,” then rolling tanks into a neighbor’s capital is “aggressive negotiations.”

As former Congressional Budget Office director Dan Crippen recently wrote:

As recent proposals by CMMI to alter Medicare payments highlight, there are serious problems with the expansive reading of CMMI’s statutory authority. And the result is a significant shift of power from Congress to the executive branch.

With limited ability for oversight under this framework, Congress should exercise its authority and halt this experiment until it can properly consider the effects of the proposed policy.

Congress should revoke, or least dramatically curtail, the CMMI’s vast authority. We can hope that the courts would hand it the same rebuke that they did the CFPB, but the power to legislate belongs in Congress’s hands. They need to take it back.

Unfortunately Sen. Obama is no longer in Congress; he condemned executive oversight when he said, “The president is not above the law.”

But unfortunately we lost that guy a long time ago. I’m not sure what happened to him. Maybe Ellen or Seinfeld can ask him for us.