House Panels Threaten Subpoenas Over Trump Effort to Trash Affordable Care Act

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Upset by the GOP Trump Justice Department’s decision to use federal courts to destroy the Affordable Care Act, the Democratic chairs of five House com-mittees, including the Education and Labor Committee, are threatening to issue subpoenas to both DOJ and the White House counsel to see whether Trump ordered the move.

The letters are the lawmakers’ second attempt to get such records from White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Attorney General William Barr. Neither sent anything by the original April 22 deadline.

Assuming the lawmakers’ May 13 follow-up letter produces no substantive response by May 24, “we will have no choice but to consider alternative means of compliance,” the chairmen warned. That’s legalese for “issuing a subpoena.”

The latest letter follows yet another instance of Trump refusal to follow the U.S. Constitution and the oversight responsibilities it assigns to Congress.

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., sent the identical letters to Cipollone and Barr.

The five committees have good reason to subpoena the ACA communication records. The Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce and Education and Labor Committees basically wrote the ACA in 2009-10.

The Judiciary Committee would decide whether to impeach Trump. Calls for doing so increased in the week of May 20, after more Trump stonewalling. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich. joined Dems in saying Trump is impeachable.

The letters also came just before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in D.C. ordered Trump’s accounting firm to turn over his financial records to the Oversight Committee. Mehta’s May 20 ruling was the first in what will be a raft of such decisions on Trump resistance to congressional oversight. Nadler says that’s illegal, too.

The chairmen said their oversight responsibilities include whether the White House ordered the DOJ to file its May 13 brief in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, demanding its judges declare the entire ACA unconstitutional, following the prior lead of a GOP-named federal judge in rural red-state Texas.

“This action could deprive millions of Americans of health insurance coverage, including 133 million people with pre-existing conditions. We requested that you produce eight categories of documents relating to the White House's involvement in this sudden and extremely troubling reversal,” the lawmakers’ ACA letters to Barr and Cipollone said.

“The White House failed to respond in any way to this request. Instead, on May 1, 2019, the Department of Justice filed a 50-page brief…elaborating on the Trump administration's new – and flawed -- legal position.”

The lawmakers pointed out that in all past administrations, when DOJ found one section of a law – which it’s supposed to defend – unconstitutional, “the rest of the law should not be struck down unless it is ‘evident Congress would not have enacted those provisions which are within its power, independently of those which are not.’”

But DOJ argued in court that when Congress used the GOP-Trump tax cut for companies and the rich to revoke the ACA’s “individual mandate” – the $700 tax individuals were supposed to pay if they didn’t get health insurance through employers or the ACA’s exchanges – that made the whole law unconstitutional.

“The faulty legal reasoning” in that brief to the appeals court judges “underscores the concerns we raised…that politically motivated forces inside the White House and the Office of Management and Budget may have brought undue pressure on the Department of Justice to reverse its prior legal conclusions and disregard its own legal reasoning in violation of the Constitution's solemn charge to ‘take care that the laws are faithfully executed.’”

The “take care” language is straight from the president’s oath of office.

“Given the grave consequences that would result if the Trump administration's legal position were to prevail, it is Congress's responsibility as an independent and co-equal branch of government to understand how this decision was made,” the five committee chairmen said. They also want to interview Trump’s acting OMB Director, Russ Vought, behind closed doors.  

"If the president and his administration truly stand by their decision to seek to eliminate health insurance coverage for millions of Americans, it is unclear why the White House would cover up its role in this unprecedented and disastrous reversal,” they said.



Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work