How Defunding Obamacare Became A GOP Strategy

Right after Obamacare passed, I realized that if the GOP managed to take back Congress, it wasn’t going to be possible to immediately repeal the bill. Moreover, without 60 votes in the Senate, I knew it was going to be extremely difficult to make any significant changes to it before it went into effect. So, the question was: How does the GOP stop Obamacare when they can’t repeal it and they can’t significantly change the law?

I had an idea: We could use the power of the purse to defund it. If we refused to spend any money to implement Obamacare, it would prevent the program from really getting started.

So, I got in touch with some of the congressional aides I work with behind-the-scenes to see how feasible this was. None of them had considered this idea or even heard anyone talk about it, but after thinking it over, they said it could work.

At that point, I briefly mentioned the idea in a Townhall column and wrote a piece on it for RWN. It was called The Hawkins Strategy: Repealing Obamacare By Cutting Off The Funds.

The problem with doing a full repeal of Obamacare is that it will take a majority in the House, the presidency, and 60 votes in the Senate.

Were I a betting man, I’d say condition one is very likely by 2012, condition 2 is definitely possible, but condition 3 is basically out of reach given that we only have 41 Senators right now. By 2014? Maybe, but under any circumstances, getting to 60 Senators is always extraordinarily difficult. Of course, we may be able to peel off some Democratic votes, but there’s no guarantee that will happen.

So, how do we kill Obamacare?

I have an idea.

“The IRS might have to hire as many as 16,000 new employees to enforce all the new taxes and penalties the bill calls for! And that doesn’t include all the other government jobs from the 159 new agencies, panels, commissions and departments this bill will create.”

What does it take to fund all those government jobs, agencies, panels, & commissions? Tax dollars.

Now, who controls the purse strings? Congress. How many votes do we need via reconciliation to make budget changes? 51.

So, can we gut Obamacare by refusing to fund it?


Is this a viable strategy? Yes, it is.

Now, what if Obama is President and we do this? He still has to sign a reconciliation bill. Will he do that? He’s certainly not going to be inclined to do it. But, if Republicans don’t back down, we’ve got a stand-off. At that point, it probably comes down to who has the American people at their back. I like those odds.

On the other hand, if we can replace Obama in 2012, then a Republican President will definitely sign off on reconciliation and we’ve eviscerated Obamacare.

Of course, the ideal is still to repeal Obamacare in its entirety — and that should be our ultimate goal. But, if we can defund it while we’re working towards that end, it’ll be like ripping the engine out of the car that drives the bill — and it’s very doable.

That piece got linked up all over the place and I personally sent it to some of the aides who worked for the GOP’s congressional leadership. If you want to know what got people talking about the idea of defunding Obamacare to begin with, it was that post on Right Wing News.

Over time, I continued pushing the idea. Eventually, in July of this year, I got 3 out of the 4 top members of the GOP’s House Leadership on the record in favor of defunding Obamacare.

We are going to fight to repeal this government takeover of health care and start over with solutions that focus first on lowering costs. Cutting off funding for ObamaCare is absolutely something I support. For example, I would support moving as soon as possible to deny any funding for the estimated 16,500 IRS employees that will be needed to implement ObamaCare. House Republicans will continue to stand with the American people against this unconstitutional government takeover of health care. — John Boehner

Yes, without question. Republicans will use every tool available to us to repeal the harmful law. Even in the minority, House Republicans have forced votes to immediately repeal some of the most egregious provisions of the law, including a vote to repeal the individual mandate. — Eric Cantor

Congress holds the power of the purse, and yes, I will support all efforts to cut off funding for ObamaCare. The Democrats’ government takeover of health care will kill jobs, infringe on individual liberty, and it fails to contain costs. — Mike Pence

Today, everybody is talking about the idea. There’s even a website. Moreover, according to a Wall Street Journal article at the top of the Drudge Report, defunding Obamacare is one of the key strategies the GOP intends to push if they get back into power,

Eyeing a potential Congressional win in November, House Republicans are planning to chip away at the White House’s legislative agenda–in particular the health-care law–by depriving the programs of cash.

…Republican leaders are also devising legislative maneuvers that might have a bigger impact, using appropriations bills and other tactics to try to undermine the administration’s overhaul of health care and financial regulations and its plans to regulate greenhouse gases.

…The White House concedes that Congress’s withholding funds would be a threat to the health-care law, but argues such a strategy could backfire with consumers, particularly if it threatened to nix popular provisions, such as allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they turn 26.

“What the Republicans will be faced with is really taking those benefits away,” said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services. “They will have to face their constituents who have their children enrolled on a family plan and say, ‘That can’t happen anymore.'”

…At its core, the GOP plan will focus on spending and whittling away the health-care law, the Democrats’ landmark achievement, which extends insurance to 32 million Americans. House Republicans say a full repeal would pick up a few Democratic votes, but acknowledge the effort would fail in the Senate.

Instead, they plan other means to chip away at it, by trying to choke off appropriations funding for key pieces, since House approval is required to pass such spending.

Republican congressional aides and advisers say their focus would including blocking funding to hire new Internal Revenue Service agents, who are needed to enforce the law’s tax increases. They also would consider barring spending for a new board that approves Medicare payment cuts as well as on research that compares the effectiveness of medical procedures.

Other potential targets include funds to pay for a long-term care insurance program and money to help states set up insurance exchanges where consumers will be able to use tax credits beginning in 2014.

“By having the capacity to block funding for it, you get to very much shape how it turns out,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a director of the Congressional Budget office under Mr. Bush.

Republicans would also bring to a vote measures that attack the law’s least popular parts, including the requirement that most Americans carry health insurance and cuts to payments for privately run Medicare plans. Such other stand-alone bills would struggle to get through the Senate. But House Republicans say they will bring them to the floor anyway to pave the way for a broader attack on the health law should they recapture the White House in 2012.

Much of the $938 billion bill is effectively on a glide path, a fact that works against the Republican plan, and many provisions don’t begin until 2014. That’s when lower-earners will start getting tax credits to offset the cost of insurance and states will expand their Medicaid programs.

Some Republican aides and advisers say if Republicans controlled the House, they could wedge wide-ranging provisions into appropriations bills that would choke off future funding for the core of the law. Others caution that Senate Democrats wouldn’t sign off on anything too expansive, and that Republicans may have power over about $100 billion in implementation spending.

Now, would this story exist today if Right Wing News hadn’t pushed the idea? Maybe, maybe not. But, if you want to know why people are talking about this today, how it was popularized, and why it’s the GOP de facto strategy, you just read it. RWN will probably never get credit for it, but the truth is, it started here, was pushed here, and you’re going to see it implemented in D.C. if the GOP takes over.

Share this!

Enjoy reading? Share it with your friends!