This week Congress has a chance to defund ObamaCare, by stripping out billions of dollars set aside for the misguided program by the previous Congress. It’s a golden opportunity. Yet so far defunding is not on the agenda.
Republican freshmen have the chance to fix that, if they stand firm again as they did last week.
House Republicans say they are crafting a bill to save taxpayers $100 billion. At last report, their proposal would rescind funding for 123 different federal programs and lower future funding for many others. But so far, it leaves ObamaCare unscathed. Except for transferring $750 million to a different public health program, the tens of billions appropriated last year for ObamaCare would remain available for the White House to spend freely.
This can be fixed by an amendment offered on the House floor, but only if House leaders expressly permit it. Otherwise, members such as Rep. Steve King, (R.-Iowa), may be boxed out by House rules that block his efforts to go back and reclaim money spent by last year’s Congress.
Yet that’s what most of the bill does to other programs. A different standard is being applied to permit the other reach-backs that were approved by the Appropriations Committee. The rule against changing past appropriations is being waived in 123 instances, but not for defunding ObamaCare.
The question is whether conservative House members—especially the GOP freshmen—will again play hardball with party leaders, and oppose any measure that does not permit defunding ObamaCare, in a repeat of last week when they forced the Appropriations Committee to propose more spending cuts than originally approved.
Even now, many conservatives say the bill falls $16.billion short of the GOP commitment to make $100 billion in spending cuts this year. The House Republican Study Committee, led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R.-Ohio), plans to offer an amendment to cut that elusive $16 billion. This extra savings could come from ObamaCare, but only if House leaders choose to permit it.
Certainly ObamaCare is also a much better target for recisions than the defense budget, which finds itself on the chopping block even in the midst of a hot war.
Some don’t realize that last year’s Congress did appropriate money for ObamaCare, even though it failed to pass appropriations bills for anything else. The billions appropriated for ObamaCare are outlined in Congressional Research Service Report R41301, “Appropriations and Fund Transfers in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA),” issued on Oct. 14.
There is major money that could be pulled back immediately. Congress could rescind the $5 billion appropriated in Section 1101(g) to create high-risk pools, the $5 billion appropriated in Section 1102(e) for a re-insurance program, and the $6 billion in Section 1322(g) to create insurance exchanges. The CRS report details billions more in current and future funding equally available for the cutting.
That’s a dirty little secret about the new law. As further detailed in a Heritage Foundation report, rather than respecting the right of future Congresses to decide on funding, ObamaCare’s sponsors included several years’ worth of current and future appropriations for the health care makeover—money that mostly has not yet been spent.
Despite the recent court ruling that the new health law is unconstitutional, the White House insists it will go full speed ahead to implement the law and spend that dough. The House will never have a better chance to stop it than to defund ObamaCare this week, before it’s too late.
Defunding Obamacare is a twofer. It responds to the public mandate for repeal, plus it moves the House GOP closer to fulfilling its pledge to cut spending by $100 billion this year.
It’s a double opportunity that should not be wasted.