A Solution to the GOP’s Defunding Problem

Alex Cortes
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Posted: Mar 28, 2011 2:23 PM

Significant disagreement lingers among House Republicans on whether fully defunding ObamaCare and Planned Parenthood, non-starters in the Democratic Senate, are worth the political risks associated with a potential government-wide shutdown. The GOP leadership is working to avoid such a shutdown at all costs, confirmed by their most recent continuing resolution that lacked defunding language, while the 54 conservative Members who voted against it believe now is the time to pick a fight with unserious Democrats.

Fortunately for House Speaker John Boehner, a unifying solution might be one that he himself proposed last fall.

At a September speech before the American Enterprise Institute, the Speaker called for doing “away with the concept of comprehensive spending bills…Rather than pairing agencies and departments together, let them come to the House floor individually.”

Boehner asserted that the primary benefit of this approach would be to make spending cuts easier. Lawmakers wouldn’t have to “vote for big increases at the Commerce Department just because they support NASA” and could rather judge each department and agency on its own merits.

By unfortunate necessity, the GOP leadership has continued putting forth comprehensive spending bills. Considering the present challenge in getting Senate Democrats to accept one meager comprehensive bill, imagine the extraordinary difficulty in getting them to pass a myriad of smaller ones. For this practical concern, Speaker Boehner’s innovative proposal is one more suited for unified government, but could in fact be partially pursued now to great effect.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are the two main implementation bodies for ObamaCare, and the former is also responsible for the taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood. If House Republicans separated the consideration of their appropriations from the rest of the otherwise comprehensive spending bill, than they can ensure that both items are defunded, risking only a shutdown in the two departments.

Critics might charge that this approach would confirm that the GOP is asking for a damaging shutdown and thus will be blamed for its occurrence, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

First, separating out the more politically-charged funding decisions minimizes the likelihood of a government-wide shutdown by making it easier for Democrats to vote for general spending cuts without having to explain to their base why they voted to defund one of their signature achievements and one of their signature allies.

Second, it is important to be clear that no one desires a shutdown, but if a partial one does occur the Democrats will be the ones to blame. Republicans should consistently communicate to the American people that these big government liberals intentionally shutdown these departments in order to protect their failed, rejected, and unconstitutional ObamaCare experiment and because they believe funding should continue for a criminally-suspect, for-profit organization that clearly shouldn’t be a budget priority with a $14.3 trillion debt and climbing.

Third, when we’re talking about a shutdown, we’re really talking about a slowdown. Medicare and Medicaid would continue normally and only non-essential activities are brought to a halt.

Separating out funding consideration for HHS and IRS would put to rest the government-wide shutdown concerns of the GOP leadership, while guaranteeing conservative Members a full defunding of ObamaCare and Planned Parenthood. Republicans should consider implementing this solution once the current continuing resolution expires on April 8th.