During CPAC, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) told me that all of the funding mechanisms for ObamaCare were maintained in the continuing resolution produced by House Republicans over the weekend. Later, King teamed up with other Republicans to pass an amendment that stripped out discretionary funds for implementation of the health-care law, but he tells CNS News Friday that the bill didn’t touch the mandatory funding mechanisms at all:
King, in an interview with CNSNews.com, said that because his colleagues did not allow him to offer an amendment to stop a slew of automatic spending programs created by the health care reform package, some provisions of the law will continue to operate.
“That’s true,” King said of the untouched spending. “There are multiple places written into the ObamaCare legislation that automatically appropriate, dozens of places.”
While the House passed amendments from King and Reps. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) to strip the government of the discretionary funding needed to implement the law’s insurance mandate and other regulations, they did not allow King to offer an amendment shutting off a combined $105.5 billion in automatic spending authorized by ObamaCare itself.
The problem is that House rules prevent statutory changes through budget bills. Since ObamaCare has already been signed into law, King’s amendment would have to change the law to reverse the mandatory spending. The rule prevents members from slipping changes in statutes into must-pass budget bills, as well as protect entitlement programs like ObamaCare. King knew about the restriction but offered the amendment on the floor in order to serve notice of the funding mechanisms remaining for ObamaCare. Unless the Rules Committee wanted to set a new precedent — one that might haunt the GOP when they return to the minority — House leadership had little choice in the matter.
But that may change in the next big showdown with Barack Obama and the Democrats in the Senate. The House has to consider a debt-ceiling hike, and one of the demands they may make is to strike those mandatory-spending mechanisms:
However, King said that he and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) are now “working together” to find a way to cut off this automatic funding.
“They’re [GOP leaders] looking for a good vehicle and good timing and I’m looking,” King said. “We’re working together in a common way to get there and I’ve said that I believe that we need to put my language onto every appropriations bill all the way through the 112th Congress and I’m still of that opinion.”
“The debt ceiling is another good place for leverage,” said King. “There’s been a suggestion just to – with limited constraints – bring a debt ceiling bill and put the complete repeal of ObamaCare right on it.”
Unlike the budget, debt-ceiling legislation is statutory and does not have the same restriction on amendments. King should be able to get a floor vote on his amendment during the debate and pass the change along to the Senate. It may or may not survive there; no Democrat voted to repeal ObamaCare when they had the chance earlier this month, but it’s possible that the debt-ceiling issue will pressure some of the vulnerable red-state Democrats into changing their minds when the time comes. That will force Obama to issue a veto to stop Republicans from dismantling his signature legislation and suffer the inability to borrow funds in the short term as a result, or to sign it and doom ObamaCare entirely.