Rep. John Boehner. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has caved to the right flank of his party and decided to tie funding for the entire government to an effort to defund the Affordable Care Act. This latest gambit will have one of two results. Republicans will back down, after the Democrat-held Senate puts forward a budget with full Obamacare funding, and Boehner will be forced to allow a minority of Republican members to join House Democrats in securing a fully funded government with Obamacare included (some conservatives hope that, in this moment of negotiation, a deal could be struck that delays or partially weakens Obamacare). The second scenario is that Republicans refuse to come to the table, the government will lose funding, and with it, Obamacare will be partially defunded for the time being.
The vast majority of healthcare reform is funded through what is known as mandatory spending that is not necessarily affected by the continuing budget resolution now at issue in Congress. If the government shuts down, the only aspect of Obamacare that will be defunded is the portion that is covered through discretionary spending. Affordable Care Act discretionary spending includes funding for community health centers, preventative health programs, school-based health clinics for children, rural and Indian health centers, doctor and nurse training grants, among other programs—spending that overwhelmingly benefit rural Republican districts in many states.
The discretionary healthcare reform programs, like much of Obamacare, help save lives every day by providing care to low-income Americans. How do we know this, beyond the numerous studies and reports that say so? Ask Republicans, who have embraced and deceitfully promoted Obamacare discretionary spending programs—including the Obamacare-funded health centers and clinics that they are now attempting to shut down:
Congressman Bill Cassidy (R-LA) co-sponsored Representative Tom Grave’s (R-GA) defunding bill, the Defund Obamacare Act of 2013. Although Cassidy has joined Boehner and the party’s far right in a push to shut down Affordable Care Act discretionary spending programs, he wrote a letter to the administration asking for more discretionary spending on federal health centers. In addition, he appeared at a ribbon-cutting event—where Cassidy held a ceremonial pair of scissors—for an Obamacare-funded school-based health clinic, where he made an emotional appeal about the importance of helping children stay healthy while earning an education. Despite his plea to help children, Cassidy’s attempt to defund the government over healthcare reform will cut off money to such programs:
(Cassidy cuts the ribbon for a new Obamacare-funded school health clinic. Photo credit: NBC33)
Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) helped sponsor Senator Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) bill to defund healthcare reform. While Moran has attacked the law and called it a failure, he proudly appeared at a publicity event to promote the groundbreaking of a $4.7 million expansion of the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas last August. At the event, where Moran held a ceremonial shovel, the senator heaped praise the community center for helping provide comprehensive care, noting “even the most conservative politician …ought to be in favor of community health centers.” Though he did not acknowledge the source of the construction money, the $4.7 million came completely from Affordable Care Act discretionary spending.
(Moran breaking ground at an Obamacare-funded clinic in Kansas. Photo credit: Moran’s Facebook page)
Congressman Michael Grimm (R-NY) is a co-sponsor of the Defund Obamacare Act. Despite his opposition to the law and repeated attempted to repeal it, Grimm posed with jumbo-sized Obamacare checks to recipients in his district. In this photo, Grimm is presenting a check for $487,500 from the Affordable Care Act to the Community Health Center of Richmond, which received a total of over $2.7 million from Obamacare. Even if Republicans fail in repealing the Affordable Care Act, a government shutdown would cut off funding to federal health clinics.
(Grimm posing with an Obamacare check. Photo credit: Flickr user Feanny)
Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS) signed onto the Defund Obamacare Act in July, and argued recently in a column that the entire law must be repealed because it “harms Americans.” What would be Pompeo’s alternative? At a town hall meeting, according to the Wichita Eagle, Pompeo said that instead of Obamacare, federally funded health clinics like the Hunter Health Clinic and GraceMed in Wichita provide great examples of how to care for people who can’t afford health insurance. Pompeo failed to note that both clinics are actually heavily funded by Obamacare: Hunter Health Clinic has received over $1.67 million and GraceMed $525,000 from the Affordable Care Act. Nor did he mention that his repeal effort would withdraw funds from health clinics like the ones he praised as examples of the right type of reforms.
(Pompeo speaking before the Hunter Health Clinic. Photo credit: CFAHC)
Read Zoë Carpenter on the movement to defund Obamacare.