Having carried through on the first part of its promise—the House voted overwhelmingly to repeal the whole kit and caboodle—the Republicans are now developing a plan to cut off funding for the new national healthcare bureaucracy as part of the continuing resolution to fund the U.S. government that is expected on the floor next week.
Unfortunately for the GOP, that is not as easy as it seems on its face. Thanks to some self-funding provisions in the law, which passed under the leadership of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, there is still some money available to help push the creation of the Obamacare bureaucracy along. [See editorial cartoons about healthcare.]
Enter Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, who has a plan to defund it completely.
King is pushing to add to the CR language that would cut off the self-appropriating funds in addition to prohibiting any new funding, as the GOP leadership is already committed to doing. The language King would like to see added to the CR--"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, none of the funds made available in this Act or any previous or subsequent Act may be used to carry out the provisions of Public Law 111-148, Public Law 111-152, or any amendment made by either such Public Law."--has not yet received the support of the GOP leadership, meaning he may have to offer it as an amendment from the floor.
This puts the leadership in a tight spot since, for the more aggressive opponents of the new healthcare law, King’s approach is the only one that truly cuts off all the funds for Obamacare. But it puts politics and policy in direct conflict because it reaches back to block the funding for implementation and enforcement that was included in the Obamacare law. [See 10 ways the GOP can take down Obamacare.]
The problem is that King’s language, because it is outside the scope of the continuing resolution, amounts to what is known as “legislating on an appropriations bill,” something that is subject to a point of order under the House rules--which would almost certainly be sustained on the House floor. According to King’s office, his amendment would shut off somewhere between $60 and $100 billion in additional funding that the approach currently advocated by leadership wouldn’t touch.
Supports of King’s amendment say the issue is a “no brainer.”
“If we pass up this opportunity to completely shut off funding for its enforcement and implementation,” says one source close to the issue, “we'll be putting members in the precarious position of having to vote to fund a law they've already voted to repeal. Such a scenario will only complicate our repeal efforts going forward." [Read the U.S. News debate: Should the healthcare law be repealed?]
If, as King wants, the language can be added directly to the continuing resolution rather than offered as an amendment from the floor, it can be protected from any point of order objections by the Rules Committee. The Rules Committee could also decide to make it in order as an amendment from the floor, meaning the point of order objections would not apply and members would have a chance to cast a simple up or down vote on the issue.
Allies of King’s approach are expected to begin lobbying members of the House--particularly members of the Rules Committee, who may be easier to persuade then the House leadership, that his amendment at least deserves a chance to pass. As they see the politics of the issue, you cannot claim to have fulfilled your promise to defund Obamacare while leaving between $60 and $100 billion on the table.