In the desperate attempt to portray their massive new spending bill as “budget neutral,” Congress and the Obama Administration are relying on more desperate measures to hide the true cost of the legislation. The Senate Finance Committee bill includes Section 1209, aka the “Fail-Safe Mechanism to Prevent Increase in Federal Budget Deficit.” But it is more than just a budget gimmick, it is an unprecedented change in the balance of power from Congress to the President that ought to unite liberals and conservatives in opposition to it. This is either a dangerous or cynical game.
Under Section 1209, if the President certifies that the changes under this legislation cause an increase in the federal deficit, “… the President shall instruct the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of the Treasury to reduce such credits and subsidies …” that are provided under the legislation.
In other words, the level of federal assistance that is being promised may not actually be delivered. Reducing the subsidies would fall disproportionately on the lowest income levels. Having trapped millions of Americans into buying a product they cannot afford, Congress now gives the President the full unchecked authority to reduce those subsidies (which are worth up to $16,500 a year for a family of four).
This provision abdicates Congress’ responsibility to provide alternative means of lowering costs. This is just another massive relinquishment of power by Congress to the Obama Czar State. Consider if such power were given to the President in other government assistance programs? Imagine the protests from senior groups if such power were in the hands of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration and the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ? The unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare would be resolved, of course, but it would come directly out of the hides of beneficiaries.
No doubt the Administration and congressional leaders will try to convince themselves and everyone else, this provision does not really mean what it says it means, it is there only to fool those good but pesky analysts at the Congressional Budget Office. But at what point will the Obama Administration and congressional negotiators ask themselves, are we so desperate on this one issue, we are willing to put everything else at risk?