Whether the GOP should press for debilitating cuts to Obamacare – and risk a government shutdown – is the talk of Capitol Hill, but a most important point may be getting lost in the chatter: The strategy is already working.
A discussion with the “House Doctor” indicates the strategy to defund Obamacare is already largely in effect and has scored some significant victories.
Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, is uniquely qualified to assess Obamacare after spending nearly three decades practicing medicine in North Texas, serving as co-chair of the Congressional Health Caucus and authoring the WND book “Doctor in the House” with its prescriptions for more efficient and less expensive health care.
Burgess told WND, “In the last continuing resolution, there was a billion dollars cut out of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. There was well over $300 million cut out of the Treasury Department budget for implementation of activities regarding the Affordable Care Act. So, those were some serious sideswipes.”
The doctor-turned-lawmaker said GOP efforts to limit the implementation of Obamacare are already seeing results.
“In fact, you heard the administration complain,” he observed. “We heard (Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen) Sebelius come into the Energy and Commerce Committee and complain they don’t have the funds to implement the Affordable Care Act.”
Burgess recalled how that led to a “pretty big flap” over HHS diverting money from the prevention fund to its implementation strategy.
“So, there’s no question we’ve caused some strain within the administration already. Since that day, and this is one of the things I’ve been concerned about, we see this trail of debris that streams out behind the Affordable Care Act. It’s falling apart at the seams,” he stated bluntly.
The question now for GOP lawmakers is whether to try to completely defund Obamacare in one swoop before it goes into full effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
They are considering doing that by blocking any funding proposal that includes money for implementing Obamacare and, instead, approving a series of bills funding all governments services except the health care law.
The risk is Democrats would almost certainly rather see the government shut down than approve spending proposals that don’t include funding for Obamacare.
They calculate the GOP would get the blame for a government shutdown, as happened during the Clinton administration, even though it was the president who refused to sign the spending bill approved by Congress.
More recently, rank-and-file Republicans tried to block funding for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and risk a possible government shutdown only to have their own leaders balk.
But a growing number of Republicans sense it may be different this time because of increasing public dissatisfaction with the law and the administration’s problems implementing it, as evidenced by its recent decision to delay the employer mandate for a year.
The Hill reports the man leading the anti-funding effort in the House, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., has asked the GOP leadership not to bring anything to the floor that has funding for Obamacare in it.
He told WND, “The will of the majority of the American people is with us in wanting to move money we would have to spend on Obamacare to other critical areas that have seen substantial cutbacks.”
Meadows said 65 fellow GOP House members have already signed his letter “encouraging House leadership to defund Obamacare through the appropriations process” even though the letter has not yet been sent.
Burgess said it may be a risk worth taking, but the GOP must realize there will be a price to pay.
“I think the situation with Obamacare is serious enough we sure have to consider pulling the lever (using the shutdown threat), but do understand there are going to be consequences for it. It’s a given the Republicans will get blamed (if there is a shutdown), but we’re getting blamed for everything anyway.”
His prescription is to make sure the public clearly understands what they are doing and why.
“We need to do a good enough job communicating so people understand the House has done it’s work providing a funding bill to keep the government going for everything but the disastrous and doomed Affordable Care Act. And if the president says, ‘I’m not going to sign a bill like that,’ then it’s his decision to shut the government down, not ours.”
GOP leadership also has to be persuaded.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are widely thought to be wary of taking blame for shutting down the government and paying for it at the polls in 2014.
WND asked Meadows how he plans to encourage GOP leadership to join the effort to defund Obamacare.
“GOP leadership has brought repeal votes to the House floor and stated that they will continue supporting efforts to get rid of the entire law. Many conservative members are looking for ways to work together with leadership to reprioritize spending,” he said.
Meadows is also banking on public support, noting, “The will of the majority of the American people is with us in wanting to move money we would have to spend on Obamacare to other critical areas that have seen substantial cutbacks.”
The effort to defund Obamacare has already attracted the support of some GOP leaders in the Senate, including the second- and third-ranking members of the GOP leadership, Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, is spearheading the effort in the Senate, and he predicts enough votes to filibuster a stopgap spending measure.
“If Republicans in both houses simply refuse to vote for any continuing resolution that contains further funding for further enforcement of Obamacare, we can stop it. We can stop the individual mandate from going into effect,” Lee said during his appearance on “Fox and Friends.
Burgess concluded, “I think we have to be prepared to say to the American people, ‘Look, we’ve had three-and-a-half years, billions and billions of dollars, it’s not working. For heaven’s sakes, don’t spend another dime on this disaster!”