How to defund Obamacare

Cameron Seward Research Associate, Heritage Foundation
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The inside-the-beltway crowd is trying to make the strategy to defund Obamacare sound impossibly confusing. It’s not, but for their sake let me break it down, in plain English. Conservatives in Congress are trying to stop ObamaCare before the critical elements of the law are implemented on January 1 of next year.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has drafted a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) saying that he, and other signatories to the letter, will not vote for a continuing resolution if it “funds further implementation or enforcement of Obamacare.” A version of that letter is open for the American public to sign. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) is circulating a similar letter in the House.

How does this letter help to stop Obamacare?

The federal government runs on a Fiscal Year. The next fiscal year, FY 2014, starts on Oct. 1, 2013. For budgeting purposes, the federal government’s year starts three months early. As a result, the discretionary spending measure that the federal government is currently operating under for this year runs out at midnight on Sept. 30, 2013.

In theory, 12 appropriations bills are passed individually, first by the House, then by the Senate and signed into law. Regular order has not occurred for many years and there is no expectation for this piecemeal process to work out before Sept. 30. Not only has the Senate failed to pass an appropriations measure, but the House is woefully behind schedule, too.

For the past few years, these 12 bills have been consolidated into one massive year-end spending measure or, alternatively, funding has continued through a continuing resolution, both of which fund all the discretionary functions of the federal government. These continuing resolutions are considered must-pass bills, because some functions of the federal government will cease to operate if it doesn’t pass.

The Lee-Meadows strategy is to lock down enough members to say they will not support one that funds ObamaCare.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has challenged conservative representatives and senators to “stand up for principle” by supporting the Lee-Meadows strategy. The current CR expires in 61 days and Cruz believes that Congress has plenty of time to stop taxpayer money from being used to “force ObamaCare down the people’s throats.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) recently said on Fox that the reason to defund Obamacare is because it is “a disastrous program that is going to bankrupt state governments, is going to bankrupt individuals, is going to cause people to lose their insurance and is going to really hurt precisely the people you want to help, the working class people who are working hourly jobs at McDonald’s or Burger King or working in the service industry. We are afraid they are going to lose hours and become part-time workers as people discover how expensive insurance is going to be.”

The only remaining question is whether Sens. Lee, Cruz, and Paul will convince enough lawmakers for the strategy to succeed.