Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Defunding Obamacare - Thin Slicing the Budget

Republicans have promised to defund Obamacare if they take control of both Houses of Congress. This is a worthy goal but tricky. On the left, they think that the inability to override a veto by Obama will prevent this from taking place. From Donny Shaw at OpenCongress as quoted by Rick Ungar at Forbes:
A Republican-led Congress would send Obama an appropriations bill minus the money for enacting the health care law and dare him to veto it. If he vetoes it, no funds are appropriated and unless Congress folds and sends it back with the health care money included, funding for the government would start to run out. Most of the health care funding would be contained in the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, which funds a lot of the programs that get the most use, like public schools, low-income heating assistance, unemployment insurance, job training, and public broadcasting, so it would be a very high-stakes game.
Republicans who have long memories remember how Clinton used the government shut down after the 1994 elections to bludgeon the Republicans over budget cuts. At the time and now I believe there is another way.

By custom spending bills originate in the House, Republicans have an easy means to shape the debate, but it takes work. There is constitutionally no limit to how many appropriations bills can be submitted, even though traditionally the appropriations bills accrue to the thirteen "substantive" committees. To avoid the government shutdown, there is no reason the Republicans can't fund a portion of the Department of HHS budget that doesn't involve enforcing Obamacare. This will take extra work on their part, but is worth the effort, because it puts Obama in the awkward position of having to veto a bill because of what it does not contain.

Republicans need to think this through ahead of time or they will stand accused of not keeping their campaign promises. Getting ready to govern is hard work. Is our man up to it?

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