THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Can Appropriations Bills Defund Obamacare?
Some have argued that because much of Obamacare constitutes “mandatory” spending—namely, new entitlements such as the massive Medicaid expansion and exchange insurance subsidies—Congress is powerless to defund the entire law as part of its annual appropriations bills. These claims are false.
Congress routinely enacts changes to mandatory spending programs as part of its annual appropriations process. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recognizes these changes when analyzing spending bills and scores them as CHiMPS—changes in mandatory program spending.
In February 2011, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1—legislation intended to reduce federal spending by $100 billion, consistent with House Republicans’ “Pledge to America.” CBO found 23 pages’ worth of CHiMPS in the House-passed version of H.R. 1. These reductions in mandatory spending ran the gamut from $26 million in savings over one year, and $74 billion in savings over ten years, achieved by reducing the maximum Pell Grant award (Section 1831), to $30 million in savings achieved by reducing mandatory appropriations to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Section 1517).
Congress has already defunded mandatory programs within Obamacare—and done so through appropriations measures. Section 1857 of the continuing resolution Congress enacted in April 2011 (P.L. 112-10) “permanently cancelled” $2.2 billion in mandatory funding to Obamacare’s co-op health insurance program.