The Hidden Danger for Republicans Lurking in the Budget Deal

Republicans who voted for the landmark budget deal — and even some who didn’t — could face heat for funding Obamacare.

Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., reads from the Bible's book of Proverbs to the media, before a mock swearing-in ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011.
National Journal
Alex Seitz Wald
Add to Briefcase
Alex Seitz-Wald
Jan. 18, 2014, 8:10 a.m.

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 »
Chef Jose Andres Campaigns With Clinton
1 hours ago
White House Weighs in Against Non-Compete Contracts
2 hours ago

"The Obama administration on Tuesday called on U.S. states to ban agreements prohibiting many workers from moving to their employers’ rivals, saying it would lead to a more competitive labor market and faster wage growth. The administration said so-called non-compete agreements interfere with worker mobility and states should consider barring companies from requiring low-wage workers and other employees who are not privy to trade secrets or other special circumstances to sign them."

House Investigators Already Sharpening Their Spears for Clinton
3 hours ago

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz plans to spend "years, come January, probing the record of a President Hillary Clinton." Chaffetz told the Washington Post: “It’s a target-rich environment. Even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain’t good.”

No Lobbying Clinton’s Transition Team
6 hours ago

Hillary Clinton's transition team has in place strict rules to limit the influence that lobbyists could have "in crafting the nominee’s policy agenda." The move makes it unlikely, at least for now, that Clinton would overturn Obama's executive order limiting the role that lobbyists play in government

Federal Government Employees Giving Money to Clinton
6 hours ago

Federal employees from 14 agencies have given nearly $2 million in campaign donations in the presidential race thus far, and 95 percent of the donations, totaling $1.9 million, have been to the Clinton campaign. Employees at the State Department, which Clinton lead for four years, has given 99 percent of its donations to the Democratic nominee.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.