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Homepage / HEALTH CARE

Are GOP Leaders Going Soft on 'Obamacare'?

Top tea partiers in Congress openly worry about the commitment to defund the health care law.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. (center), and Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa (right), say the House GOP leadership is going wobbly on health care repeal.(TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

photo of Meghan McCarthy
March 15, 2011

Top tea partiers on Capitol Hill don't trust the House GOP leadership to do what they think is the right thing on repealing the Obama health care law. And they aren't keeping quiet about it.

“Is there anything anyone’s proposed that gets the job done? No. It’s not even close,” Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said.

Although the chamber voted in January to repeal the law, King and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., have been leading an effort to strip an estimated $105 billion in mandatory funding from the statute through must-pass spending legislation.


They are not confident that this strategy will work, and Bachmann says she fears that the Republican leadership will try to placate the conservative base with empty gestures that leave the funding in place.

“What I think is going to happen with leadership is, they know they have a problem on their hands,” she said. “I think there’s going to be a fake appeasement with the Planned Parenthood thing and a fake appeasement with the 'Obamacare' thing.”

Bachmann added that there are what she considers ominous signs about how House leaders want to proceed. She noted that they have said that some of the health care law's funding--for community health centers, for example--should be regarded as normal funding rather than part of the health law.

“Because remember, both [Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.] and [Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.] said, ‘You know, a lot of this funding is normal funding; it's what we do anyway. This isn’t really Obamacare,” she said.

King said that argument had been used by leadership staff during a meeting of groups whose aim is to repeal or defund the health care law.

“Would you pull a tree out and leave the root?” King said, referring to leaving some of the funding intact.

When discussing how much mandatory funding was included in the statute--King’s staff recently pegged it at $18.6 billion for fiscal 2010--King and Bachmann complained that they had to seek out the information themselves, instead of getting guidance from their leaders.

“Instead, leadership argues with us on it,” King said.

“Also, the fact that they’re perfectly fine with it," Bachmann added. "They’re not insulted. They’re not offended that we didn’t know it.”

King and Bachmann introduced a pledge last week to vote against any funding bills that do not defund an estimated $105 billion in mandatory spending in the health care law. Six House Republicans opposed the last two-week continuing resolution, and King says he expects more to join him in Tuesday’s vote on the latest short-term funding bill.

In response, House GOP leaders argue that they have been trying to defund targeted pieces of the health law through authorizing committees. The Energy and Commerce Committee's Health Subcommittee held a hearing last week on stripping funds from certain sections of the law, including money to create state insurance exchanges and a $20 billion public health and prevention fund.

But King maintains that the Energy and Commerce effort misses the majority of the mandatory funding under the law.

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