House Moves Toward Draining Obamacare Slush Funds

Ernest Istook /

Efforts to defund Obamacare one bite at a time are making progress in the House, although Senate prospects remain dim.  The House is addressing parts of Obamacare which are so loosely-drafted that House Speaker John Boehner and others label them multi-billion-dollar “slush funds.”

Five bills (numbered HR 1213 through 1217) targeted at parts of the health care law were approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee Wednesday.  The bills repeal some portions of Obamacare, totally defund other parts, and convert some automatic funding into a requirement for annual Congressional approval before anything could be spent.

By the committee’s calculations, some $18.68-billion is addressed in the five bills (of the overall $105.46-billion in total automatic funding within Obamacare).  Plus an unlimited slush fund for the Secretary of Health and Human Services is repealed.

Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA) took the lead on passing the measures, along with full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI).  Unfortunately, the national media have uniformly ignored the committee action.

But defunding Obamacare is advancing on multiple fronts.  Awaiting hoped-for action is another and broader effort to defund the entire $105.46-billion, in the form of HR 1286, filed by Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Jack Kingston (R-GA), and Louis Gohmert (R-TX).  So far, that measure has attracted 67 co-sponsors, including GOP leadership members such as Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and Tom Price (R-GA).

However, the only committee action so far has been the bite-by-bite defunding attack from Pitts’ subcommittee and Upton’s full committee.  Floor votes can be expected soon on their legislation.

As Pitts said in a recent statement:

Last Thursday I asked [HHS] Secretary Sebelius whether she needed further Congressional approval to spend the money from the 4002 fund, and she answered no.

I then asked her if she could fund activities above and beyond the level Congress appropriated, and she stated yes.

This should concern every Member that we have a created a slush fund that the Secretary can spend from without any Congressional oversight or approval.

By eliminating this fund, we are not cutting any specific program or activity. We are reclaiming our oversight role of how federal taxpayer dollars should be used.

As described by the committee, the five measures taking bites out of Obamacare (a/k/a PPACA) are as follows:

H.R. 1213, authored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), strikes the unlimited direct appropriation found in Section 1311(a) of PPACA that provides the Secretary of Health and Human Services an unlimited amount of funds for state-based exchange grants.  The bill also rescinds any unobligated funds. The bill passed through the committee by a vote of 31 to 20.

H.R. 1214, authored by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), eliminates subsection Section 4101(a) of PPACA and rescinds any unobligated funds.  That subsection authorizes the Secretary to award grants to support the construction of school-based health centers. The bill passed through the committee by a vote of 27 to 15.

H.R. 1215, authored by Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), addresses Section 2953 which establishes grants for personal responsibility education programs and provides $75 million for each of fiscal years 2010 through 2014.   The bill converts automatic appropriations into a requirement for Congress to make annual decisions of whether to provide funds or not, and any obligated funds are repealed.  The bill passed through the committee by a vote of 25 to 17.

H.R. 1216, authored by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), deals with the $230-million provided for FY2011 through 2015 for grants to teaching health centers.  It would convert the mandatory appropriations into an authorization subject to the annual appropriations process. The bill passed through the committee by a vote of 21 to 14.

H.R. 1217, authored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), repeals Section 4002 and rescinds any unobligated funds.   Section 4002 creates a $17.75 billion (FY2012-2021) prevention and public health fund and provides the Secretary with full authority to administer these funds and to spend over and above existing programs already funded by Congress.  The bill passed through the committee by a vote of 26 to 16.