With Capitol Hill wrapped up in a debate this week regarding looming fiscal fights and the possibility of a shutdown over the health care law, it’s worth remembering that shutting down the government would likely have little impact on the Affordable Care Act. According to a Congressional Research Service report released at the end of July, much of the law’s implementation is separate from annual discretionary appropriations.
The CRS report was issued at the request of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who has not been shy about his opposition to the shutdown strategy. “[A government shutdown] would be committing ritual suicide on an altar of bad strategy,” Coburn’s communications director, John Hart, told National Journal Daily. “The idea that we can fully defund Obamacare through the continuing resolution is a Washington gimmick to advance political funding goals.”
The report substantiates the argument that a shutdown would not be an effective tool to stop the law. This is because much of the law relies on mandatory funding and multiple-year and no-year discretionary funds, which are not beholden to annual budget debates.
In fact, a government shutdown is quite different from the way it is commonly viewed by the public. Although the lapse in discretionary budget authority would likely impact some day-to-day routine operations of the government — such as the National Park Service — essential and necessary functions of the government and ones that have relevant health-based concerns would continue. Social Security and Medicare would likely continue in large part because they are mandatory programs; health reform under the ACA would also be considered essential for public health and would largely continue to be funded.
“Funding for state-operated insurance exchanges [in the ACA] is a distinct mandatory funding source,” Center for Budget and Policy Priorities Senior Fellow Paul Van de Water said. “In the case of all the federal government’s direct activities — including funding for federally run exchanges — it looks like the bulk of it could continue with no obvious end in sight if there were a shutdown.” Although some smaller effects are possible, this means that the main elements of the law would continue for some time, including the insurance exchanges, subsidies, and the individual mandate.
Also, agencies have prepared contingency plans in the event of a government shutdown, and the Health and Human Services plan maintains funding for many of its programs. “The HHS shutdown contingency plan that was prepared in anticipation of a possible government shutdown in FY 2012 indicated that ACA implementation activities at CMS would continue because of the mandatory funding provided in the law,” the CRS report says. The only real way to strip the law of these mandatory funds would be to repeal the full law.
And while Congress has the power to precipitate a shutdown, much of the jurisdiction over how a shutdown would be implemented lies with the agencies and executive branch, and is written into these contingency plans. Even some Republicans supporting the strategy of tying Obamacare to the CR debate recognize that it would not have the practical effects they truly want. “It’s mostly symbolic,” Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma said recently. “We want to have something out there so people continue to talk about it…. That’s a way of keeping the issue alive…. It is something you have to keep doing because you have strong beliefs, and even if logically it isn’t going to work out the way you want it, you still try.”
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."