Republicans Hit Obama, Jack Lew for Violating the Law on Medicare
8:35 AM, Feb 6, 2013 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
It’s an old basketball adage that teams that apply a full-court press don’t like to be pressed themselves. They like to force the action, not have it forced on them. In a similar vein, those who seek to centralized power by spearheading the passage of new federal laws generally don’t like to obey those laws themselves. Laws are something for other people to dutifully obey — less important people.
Thus, for the last four years, the Obama administration has flatly refused to obey the law in response to the Medicare trigger — the trigger resulting from the Medicare Trustees’ determination that immediate action must be taken to ensure Medicare’s future solvency.
Earlier this week, eight Republican senators, in a letter to President Obama’s White House budget director Jeffrey Zients, asked why this was so. Specifically, they asked about the role of Jack Lew, who formerly occupied Zients’s position and is currently Obama’s choice to follow in Alexander Hamilton’s footsteps as head of the Treasury Department. The senators also forwarded previous letters on the same topic, one signed by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan and Senator Jeff Sessions, the other signed by 44 Republican senators. The letter reads as follows:
“Both the House and Senate Budget Committees, along with the Senate Republican Conference at large, have previously corresponded with the administration regarding its continued violation of federal law with respect to the so-called Medicare Trigger. The Senate will soon consider the nomination of Jacob Lew, who served as the Director of Office [of] Management and Budget during this period of noncompliance and who, if confirmed as Secretary of the Treasury, will also hold the position of Chairman of the Board of Medicare Trustees. Pursuant to our committee’s oversight responsibilities, we are therefore writing to request documents pertaining to the Medicare Trigger to better ascertain Mr. Lew’s role in this matter during his time as budget director.
“Specifically, Section 1105 of Title 31 of the U.S. Code requires the President to submit a legislative proposal to Congress to resolve funding warnings issued by the Medicare Trustees. Federal law states that ‘If there is a Medicare funding warning under section 801(a)(2) of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 made in a year, the President shall submit to Congress, within the 15-day period beginning on the date of the budget submission to Congress under subsection (a) for the succeeding year, proposed legislation to respond to such a warning.’
“The administration has failed each of the last four years to respond to these funding warnings despite receiving several communications from Congress urging them to comply with this unambiguous legal requirement. Those letters are attached. Two of those four years, 2010 and 2011, Mr. Lew was the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the entity responsible for drafting and submitting fiscal proposals to Congress and complying with federal budget law….
“Given that the Secretary of the Treasury will be responsible for issuing future Medicare funding warnings and will serve as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Medicare Trust Funds, we need a better understanding of the administration’s decision not to comply with Medicare law and Mr. Lew’s role in that decision.”
In a related statement, Sen. Sessions observes that, “In response to the first funding warning, issued in 2007, President George W. Bush submitted Medicare legislation to Congress in 2008. By contrast, 2012 marked the fourth consecutive year that the Obama Administration failed to submit a legislative proposal — despite a clear and unambiguous legal obligation to do so.”
Sessions also notes that Lew testified before Congress and said, “We’ve stopped spending money that we don’t have” — despite the fact that, every year under Obama, we’ve spent at least 44 percent more money than we’ve had, according to the federal government’s own tallies. Sessions notes that Lew also said during his testimony, “It’s an accurate statement that our current spending will not be increasing the debt,” even though the debt has risen by more than $1,000,000,000,000 a year, every year, since Obama took office. Sessions calls Lew’s testimony “unequivocally — and knowingly — false.”