Congress approved its first regular spending bill in years this past week, in a move hailed by many as a return to fiscal sanity. But there’s a potential danger for Republicans lurking in the depths of the $1.1 trillion omnibus appropriation package that sailed through both houses: Obamacare.
While the GOP managed to win some concessions on the Affordable Care Act, conservatives see the spending bill as “funding Obamacare,” as RedState wrote. It’s basically the same thing that Ted Cruz and other conservatives blocked a few months ago, forcing a government shutdown, and Cruz tried again to rally support for blocking the spending bill.
Tea-party and conservative groups railed against the bill, while Heritage Action warned lawmakers to vote against the package, saying that “by continuing to fund implementation of Obamacare, the omnibus bill would continue to entangle taxpayer dollars in abortion coverage.” The bill passed, of course, thanks in part to the lesson of October.
But it could still create problems for Republicans who face primary challenges from the right — including for some who didn’t even vote for the bill.
Republican Rep. Jack Kingston is facing a tough Senate primary in Georgia, and he will face off Saturday night against his opponents in the first debate of the race. He also happens to be the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee responsible for health care funding.
In December, he said he would use his post to “do everything we can to try to defund [Obamacare] or dismantle it,” telling Fox News: “I’m chairing the committee that actually defunds Obamacare.” He was so committed that other appropriators worried they’d have to work around him to get a bill done.
Of course, the bill that emerged from his subcommittee and then passed both chambers did not defund Obamacare. Kingston voted against the omnibus package (in fact he was the only appropriator to do so), but retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, Kingston’s counterpart in the upper chamber, was not going to let Kingston wipe his hands clean.
On Thursday, Harkin took to the Senate floor to thank Kingston for his help. “I’m proud to have worked out a fair agreement with my ranking member, Senator Jerry Moran from Kansas, as well as with my colleagues on the House side, including Chairman Jack Kingston,” Harkin said. “No one got 100 percent of what they wanted in this bill, which is often a sign of probably a pretty good deal.” Harkin went on to praise the fact that the bill includes several billion in funding for programs he inserted in the Affordable Care Act.
The retiring Democrat was “stirring the pot ahead of first GOP Senate debate,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution‘s Greg Bluestein noted. “Having any fingerprints on the spending plan may not go over well with ultra-conservatives who the candidates are trying to win over.”
Kingston, of course, is in a unique position as chairman of the committee that oversees health care spending. But if his conservative primary challengers take the bait tonight, he probably won’t be the last Republican to face heat for funding Obamacare in the budget.
That might be part of the reason why some Republicans want to forgo a budget entirely next time around.
A spokesman for Kingston’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
What We're Following See More »
As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."
"A Senate bill to gut Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured people by 32 million and double premiums on Obamacare's exchanges by 2026, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysis is of a bill that passed Congress in 2015 that would repeal Obamacare's taxes and some of the mandates. Republicans intend to leave Obamacare in place for two years while a replacement is crafted and implemented."