What defunding Obamacare has in common with Iran-Contra

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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As you probably know, Sen. Mike Lee and other conservatives are pushing an effort to defund Obamacare. So I asked Terence P. Jeffrey, editor-in-chief of CNSNews and a former campaign manager for Pat Buchanan, if there were any precedent for a legislature stopping a program by simply not funding it.

In the last Continuing Resolution, Jeffrey said, Congress

“told the president he could spend no money buying foreign-made ball bearings. The one before that, they had language in there that said the EPA could not enforce a regulation that would be imposed on basically stockyards that have large amounts of manure emitting methane in the atmosphere.

But that’s small potatoes compared to what he told me next:

The big famous one, of course, was back in the 80s — the Boland Amendment — which went in one of the omnibus bills that said that President Reagan could not give funds to the Nicaraguan Contras — which was one of the things that gave rise, of course, to the whole Iran-Contra scandal.


… They stuck a line in a big omnibus bill, basically threatening Reagan to ‘Veto this thing Mr. President!’ — and they denied him the right to provide funds to the Contras — which was, you know, of course a huge issue in the 1980s during then what was perceived as the height of the Cold War.”

Indeed, the Boland Amendment, which outlawed aid to the Contras, was attached as a rider to the Defense Appropriations Act of 1983 and signed by President Reagan.

In this case, President Reagan was forced to sign a larger bill even though it included a rider defunding a program he supported. Of course, helping the Contras wasn’t Reagan’s signature piece of legislation (though defeating the Soviets was a huge part of his legacy).

Conversely, my guess (and I think Jeffrey would agree) is that Obama would veto any legislation that would defund Obamacare.

Still, this can at least serve as a teachable moment for anyone born after, say, 1988. This idea is not entirely without precedent. Listen to my full conversation with Terry Jeffrey here.

Matt K. Lewis