GOP Divided Over Using Government Shutdown To Block ACA
Republicans are at odds over whether to move forward with a plan to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act via the budget process, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Viebeck/Hooper, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 7/30).
Under the plan -- spearheaded by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) -- Republicans are considering blocking any government funding resolution that includes money for further implementation of the ACA. A similar plan in the House has gained the support of 66 members.
Congress routinely has passed stopgap spending measures -- known as continuing resolutions -- to keep the federal government in operation beyond the end of each fiscal year, often because lawmakers do not finish their appropriations work by the Sept. 30 deadline.
This year, the expiration of federal appropriation laws coincides with the Oct. 1 start of open enrollment for the ACA's insurance exchanges (California Healthline, 7/23). With the August recess approaching, congressional lawmakers will only have about a dozen legislative days to deal with the issue.
On one side, many GOP lawmakers -- including Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) -- and Tea Party supporters say the threat of a government shutdown might be enough to impede the ACA's progress, just months before open enrollment in the law's health insurance exchanges begins.
On the other side, veteran Republican lawmakers -- including Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.) and Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.) -- have said the strategy could be risky. Cole said the plan is "political suicide" for Republicans, who hope to maintain their House majority after the upcoming elections ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 7/30).
However, Cruz -- speaking to reporters before a floor speech about the proposal -- said that he has asked his GOP colleagues who oppose the plan to propose another strategy, adding, "[T]here is no good alternative." He said, "We either stand for principle now or I believe we surrender to Obamacare permanently."
Although he acknowledged that the Senate and the House lack the votes to defund the ACA through a continuing resolution, he said he believes the public could sway lawmakers' votes. Cruz said the August recess would be critical for proponents to build support in their home states and get hundreds of thousands or millions of U.S. residents to sign a national petition calling for defunding the ACA (Attias, CQ Roll Call, 7/30).
Boehner, McConnell Vague on Lee's Proposal
Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have not yet publicly revealed their stance on Lee's proposal, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 7/30).
During a closed House leadership meeting on Tuesday, Boehner warned against the political dangers of shutting down the federal government, according to attendees.
A GOP leadership aide said Boehner on Wednesday has scheduled another private meeting, in which he is expected to give a presentation that says the House Republican leadership supports continuous votes to build "on the successful, targeted strikes against the [ACA] that took place in the House this month." The aide also said that Boehner would not "rule out the 'defund' tactic in any way" (Sherman, Politico, 7/30).
Meanwhile, McConnell said the GOP leadership is having ongoing discussions about the proposal and other potential strategies. He said, "We've had a lot of internal discussions about the way forward this fall in both the continuing resolution and, ultimately, the debt ceiling, and those discussions continue." He added, "There's no particular announcement at this point" (Bolton, The Hill, 7/30).
Report: Gov't Shutdown Would Not Halt ACA Implementation
The Obama administration would continue to implement the ACA in the event of a government shutdown, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service, the Washington Post's "Post Politics" reports.
The report, which was commissioned by Coburn's office, notes that the government could rely on mandatory and discretionary funding during a federal shutdown to continue implementing the law. In addition, federal agencies could continue to work on implementation activities without appropriations under exceptions to the Antideficiency Act, according to the report (Weiner, "Post Politics," Washington Post, 7/30).
The memo states, "The HHS shutdown contingency plan that was prepared in anticipation of a possible government shutdown in FY 2012 indicated that ACA implementation activities at CMS would continue because of the mandatory funding provided in the law" (CQ Roll Call, 7/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.