The House Rules Committee has rejected Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) proposal to fully defund ObamaCare. King wanted to add to the continuing resolution (which funds the federal government) the following amendment:
“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, none of the funds made available in this Act or any previous Act may be used to carry out the provisions of Public Law 111-148 [Affordable Care Act], Public Law 111-152 [Reconciliation Act], or any amendment made by either such law.”
There are two ways to defund ObamaCare. Much of ObamaCare’s funding is only “authorized to be appropriated.” Both the House and Senate must pass appropriation bills in order for that spending to occur. One way to defund ObamaCare is not to pass such appropriation bills.
But not all funding must be approved via appropriation bills. Steve King has found $105 billion that can be spent regardless. The authors of the Affordable Care Act and related health care reform legislation cunningly inserted “mandatory” self-funding provisions. Frequently, these take the form of transferring moneys from one place to another. The money is already out there, so to speak.
The following is a perfect example of a self-funding provision from the Affordable Care Act (Section 3026(f)):
“(f) FUNDING.—For purposes of carrying out this section, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall provide for the transfer, from the Federal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund…and the Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust…$500,000,000, to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Program Management Account for the period of fiscal years 2011 through 2015. Amounts transferred under the preceding sentence shall remain available until expended.”
This single sentence provides $500 million for ObamaCare without the need for further approval by the House and Senate. Steve King’s proposal would have stopped the use of any money going towards the implementation of ObamaCare.
Republicans quashed King’s idea because it was pragmatic to do so. Continuing resolutions are joint resolutions, which means both House and Senate must approve them. The Republican majority in the House could have passed the continuing resolution with King’s amendment attached, but the Democrat majority in the Senate would have rejected it. Even if the Senate passed it, Obama promised to veto it.
King’s amendment to fully defund ObamaCare not only would have shut down the government (the consequence of having no continuing resolution to fund it), but it would have deep-sixed the House Republicans’ budget cuts in the continuing resolution itself. To preserve these budget cuts, King’s proposal was quickly killed.
King’s idea was too risky from the Republicans’ point of view. Until a more appropriate opportunity presents itself, much of ObamaCare will remain self-funded.