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Obamacare Defunders Want to Pocket Obamacare Funds

August 28, 2013

The bad news keeps coming for the Republicans promising to shut down the federal government to prevent funding for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). First, former South Carolina Senator turned Heritage Foundation President Jim Demint followed in the footsteps of George W. Bush and Mitt Romney by telling a "Defund Obamacare" town hall meeting that Americans "will get better health care just going to the emergency room." Now, a new Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found that only 36 percent of respondents support cutting off funds for the ACA in fiscal year 2014.
But there is one piece of news about the entire quixotic crusade to defund Obamacare that has received virtually no coverage. That is, while the defunders don't want to spend money on Obamacare, they nevertheless want Uncle Sam to keep all of the revenue Obamacare raises for the Treasury. As it turns out, Paul Ryan's House GOP budget--supported by 95 percent of Congressional Republicans three years running--depends on it.
This issue first arose in January 2011, when the new Republican House majority asked the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to "score" H.R. 2, the "Repeal the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act." Much to the dismay of Speaker John Boehner, Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the CBO explained that repealing Obamacare would make the U.S. national debt worse. In July 2012 and again in May 2013, the CBO reached the same conclusion:

"Repealing the ACA would affect direct spending and revenues in ways resulting in a net increase in budget deficits of $109 billion over the 2013-2022 period."

Unless, that is, you don't spend the money on Obamacare and let the U.S. Treasury keep some or all of the $1 trillion in savings and new tax revenue raised to pay for it.
But that's not what House and Senate Republicans voted to do when they blessed Paul Ryan's budget in 2011, 2012 and 2013. While repealing Obamacare, slashing Medicaid funding by a third and leaving roughly 38 million more people uninsured, the Ryan budget still runs up trillions in new red ink thanks to its massive tax cut windfall for the wealthy. And yet, the Ryan plan still assumes every single dollar in revenue generated to fund the Affordable Care Act. The $716 billion in savings from Medicare providers, the capital gains and Medicare payroll tax surcharges for households earning over $250,000 a year and more is all still in there. As Ezra Klein explained "Paul Ryan's love-hate relationship with Obamacare" in March:

Every Ryan budget since the passage of Obamacare has assumed the repeal of Obamacare. Kinda. Ryan's version of repeal means getting rid of all the parts that spend money to give people health insurance but keeping the tax increases and the Medicare cuts that pays for that health insurance, as without those policies, it is very, very difficult for Ryan to hit his deficit-reduction targets.

It's also worth noting that the Romney/Ryan 2012 budget plan did exactly the same thing.
In the Obamacare Defunders defense, not all of their headliners voted for the Ryan budget every year. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul voted against it the last two years, in large part because he was pushing an even more draconian package of spending cuts. In 2013, neither Mike Lee (R-UT) nor freshman Texas Senator Ted Cruz supported it, either. But in 2011 and 2012, Ryan's blueprint got the backing of Lee and Demint, along with 97 and 95 percent of Congressional Republicans, respectively.
So, as the Defund Obamacare crowd gathers for its September 10 rally at the Capitol, their message won't just be that millions of uninsured Americans should just go the emergency room. Remember that the Republicans plan on taking the $1 trillion in Obamacare revenue and spending it on tax cuts instead.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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