Opinion

The dirty little secret about de-funding Obamacare

Photo of Hon. Ernest Istook
Hon. Ernest Istook
Former Republican Congressman
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      Hon. Ernest Istook

      Ernest J. Istook Jr. is a Distinguished Fellow at <a href="http://www.heritage.org/">The Heritage Foundation</a>. Istook served 14 years as a U.S. Congressman, then joined Heritage in 2007. He engaged in a wide and robust range of issues in Congress as he served on the House Appropriations Committee and chaired multiple subcommittees. He also served on the Homeland Security Committee.

      His congressional experience ranged from overall budget and spending issues to all forms of transportation, trade, defense, health care, education, labor, financial services, homeland security, religious liberty, and many others. He is a founder of the Republican Study Committee, the principal conservative caucus in the U.S. House.

      Tapping his broad experience, Istook is a frequent fill-in host for several major national talk radio programs; he writes weekly opinion columns for multiple outlets that include <a href="http://www.newsmax.com/blogs/ErnestIstook/id-66">NewsMax</a>, <a href="http://www.humanevents.com/search.php?author_name=Ernest++Istook">Human Events</a>, and The Daily Caller. His daily radio commentaries are heard on over 80 radio stations. He is a regular guest on many network and cable news and commentary programs.

      Istook’s professional background has been as a journalist, practicing attorney, public official and now policy expert. Overall, he served 25 years in elected office, ranging from city council to state legislature to U.S. Congress, all after he moved to Oklahoma in 1972 from his native Fort Worth, Texas. He also was the Republican nominee for Governor of Oklahoma in 2006.

      Istook holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Baylor University and law degree from Oklahoma City University. He and his wife, Judy, have five adult children and are active in church work. Istook served several years as a Boy Scout Scoutmaster. He is the grandson of Hungarian immigrants and the first college graduate in his entire family tree.

      His personal website is <a href="http://www.istook.com">www.istook.com</a>.

      Follow him on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/Ernest_Istook">@Ernest_Istook</a>.

Several members of Congress, like Rep. Denny Rehberg (R – MT) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R – WA), are offering amendments that would prevent any new spending from being used to implement Obamacare.

Good for them. Those are important additions to the big spending bill pending in Congress.

But here’s the dirty little secret: Much of Obamacare is being implemented with money that has already been appropriated. These billions are already available for bureaucrats to put Obamacare into force.

Even though the last Congress failed to pass other appropriations bills (creating the need for the currently-pending spending measure), it did provide billions to get Obamacare launched. The money was directly appropriated as part of the health care legislation instead of being included in a separate appropriations bill, as is the normal practice.

The details are in a Congressional Research Service report issued last October, “Appropriations and Fund Transfers in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).” CRS devotes seven pages to describing the billions of dollars that the Obama administration is now spending to implement the new law.

Conservatives agree with the American people that Obamacare should be repealed. Short of outright repeal, leaders from 32 conservative groups in the Conservative Action Project have jointly stated that the next-best strategy is defunding it. As their report states, “The safest route for legislatively combating Obamacare is to defund it. Now that the statute has been declared unconstitutional, Congress should use the power of the purse to deny funding for the individual mandate, employer mandates, and writing the 100s of regulations needed to impose Obamacare. Such legislation will not in any way jeopardize the ongoing litigation efforts.”

It’s good that a federal judge has declared Obamacare unconstitutional, but the White House insists it’s going forward anyway. It’s also good that the House may cut off any new money to implement Obamacare. But unless Congress deals with the pot of money already appropriated for Obamacare, we won’t be able to fully defund it.

Ernest Istook was a U.S. Congressman for 14 years and is now a Distinguished Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.