Major Fails: Omnibus Funds Obamacare and Executive Amnesty
Misconceptions about “mandatory” spending appear to have confused some in the Republican Party regarding our ability to defund Obamacare. Yes, Obamacare is in the mandatory part of the federal budget and, as such, is not included in annual “discretionary” appropriations bills or the recently passed omnibus.
A program is mandatory if receiving the benefits hinges on meeting eligibility requirements. If you qualify, you get it, so Congress does not have discretion to set a maximum expenditure level each year. There is nothing mandatory about continuing entire programs or parts of programs or even eligibility criteria. Congress does have the option to legislate any portion of a mandatory program out of existence.
To stop aspects of a mandatory spending program, Congress affirmatively legislates that “no funds shall be provided” for expenditures on those aspects. This happens all the time. In fact, that defunding phrase was used 451 times in the recent omnibus spending bill. Even parts of Obamacare were defunded. The House Appropriations Committee details five separate curbs on Obamacare implementation.
Congress could have affirmatively acted to defund all of Obamacare. Of course, the Democrat controlled Senate would never have passed the bill – so we needed to wait until the new Republican majority took over the Senate in January. But then President Obama would never sign the bill unless it was on a must-pass piece of legislation.
That is where the House failed. We passed the omnibus to fund nearly all of the federal government through the end of the fiscal year, ending September 2015. We gave up the “power of the purse,” the Congressional power that allows Congress to press an obstinate President to do the will of the people. If we had passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government only until January or February, Congress could have passed funding for all of the federal government excluding Obamacare. Any government shutdown just to preserve his namesake program would have been clearly Mr. Obama’s choice.
When House Leadership worked with the President in December to pass the omnibus for the full fiscal year, they deprived the newly elected Republicans of the opportunity to fulfill the campaign promises that propelled them to such a dramatic victory in November. Sixty-seven Republicans, including me, voted against the bill, but Mr. Obama had joined with House Republican Leadership to persuade 57 Democrats to vote for it. The Senate passed it 56-40, and the President signed it into law.
Republicans also promised voters that they would defund the President’s unconstitutional executive amnesty for illegal aliens. By passing Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding on a CR only through February, House Leadership pretended that they retained the power of the purse. Does anybody believe that President Obama is concerned about Republicans not funding DHS? Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have sued the administration for not allowing them to enforce the law. Reports are that very few DHS employees were declared non-essential and not working during the 2013 partial government shutdown. The “fight” in February will be meaningless.
Furthermore, the omnibus contained billions for funding programs to accommodate illegal immigrants and refugees in other departments including Health and Human Services and the Department of State.
With a simple “no funds shall be provided” for implementation of the President’s executive actions and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson’s directives issued on November 20 and 21, the unconstitutional executive amnesty program could have been stopped in its tracks. Instead, the USCIS is already staffing up an operations center in Virginia and hiring 1,000 full-time, permanent employees to process applications and issue IDs.
You can hear more of my response to the Republican establishment’s talking points on the CR/Omnibus in a recent interview.