Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) dismisses the possibility of Republicans successfully defunding the Affordable Care Act in a new interview with Politico Pro’s David Nather and disputes the GOP claim that Democrats sought to protect reform from Congressional action by funding parts of the law through the mandatory spending process:
On defunding reform:
These are riders that they’re putting on the bill, and appropriations bills, we’re not going to have any riders. So, that’s just not going to happen. It won’t be part of the deal. Now again, if there is legislation that they send over to repeal the health care bill or to do other things to it, well, it’s just not going to get through the Senate, period.
On “mandatory spending” in the health law:
To those arguing against mandatory spending on the health care bill, you might ask them about all the farm programs … because I see some of those are from rural states. That’s mandatory spending. It’s in the law, and it goes on year after year after year. So we do a lot of that around here for things that we don’t want to have to come up year after year after year because they have long-term implications for our country. And some of that is in farm programs and conservation programs and things like that…there is mandatory spending in defense, there is mandatory spending in transportation, energy. I think just in the whole gammit of the government there are mandatory spendings.
Indeed, even some Republicans are disputing the now oft-repeated claim — being advanced by Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Steve King (R-IA) — that Democrats misused the mandatory spending process. As Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) explained during an appearance on the Sean Hannity radio show, “with the advanced appropriations they built in there, it exists outside the normal appropriations process, but tell me something I don’t know.”
Indeed, mandatory funding was openly discussed in the various Congressional Budget Office estimates of health care reform. For instance, this CBO estimate from December 19, 2009 addressed the effects of “mandatory appropriations” for the Prevention and Public Health Fund,” “community health centers” and “the National Health Service Corps.” In an earlier document from November 2009, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf writes, “For example, the House bill would finance the operations of the insurance exchanges through mandatory appropriations rather than a surcharge on the plans offered in the exchanges. ” (The word “mandatory” is used throughout this CBO compilation of health care related documents).