As economists urge Congress to de-fund Obamacare, lameduck battle looms

Today, the group DefundIt.org is hand-delivering a letter to Capitol Hill that has been signed by 64 economists, asking members of Congress to de-fund Obamacare. The letter, whose text I have pasted below, highlights what will become the next political controversy if Republicans gain a majority in one or both houses of Congress. Will President Obama sign a bill that de-funds his own pet project? Or will we end up in a government shutdown situation?

The first big battle will come during the lameduck Congress. Republicans, who may hold as many as 43 Senate seats in the lameduck (the Illinois and West Virginia races are both special elections), will try to get a continuing resolution that keeps the government open until victorious Republicans take their seats in January. Democrats will try to rush through as many appropriations bills as they can, and they will likely try to fund Obamacare.

Next year, Republicans will need to think carefully about how they proceed with spending bills. They will try to attach “none of the funds contained in this bill” clauses related to the money Obamacare needs to establish its bureacracies, enforce its employer mandates, and levy fines against the uninsured and under-insured. But President Obama will obviously be wary of signing bills that contain such riders, as it would amount to an admission of defeat.

If Republicans want to avoid being blamed for a total government shutdown — and if it happens, this is inevitable, no matter how blameworthy Obama is himself — their best bet is probably to pass all of the spending bills separately (no omnibus), and only play chicken with Obama on the appropriations bills that affect Obamacare spending: primarily Treasury, Health and Human Services, and Labor. Even more effective, how about providing funds for the agencies within those departments that people would actually miss, but not others? House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, suggested such an approach during a recent speech at AEI:

Let’s do away with the concept of “comprehensive” spending bills. Let’s break them up, to encourage scrutiny, and make spending cuts easier. Rather than pairing agencies and departments together, let them come to the House floor individually, to be judged on their own merit. Members shouldn’t have to vote for big spending increases at the Labor Department in order to fund Health and Human Services. Members shouldn’t have to vote for big increases at the Commerce Department just because they support NASA. Each Department and agency should justify itself each year to the full House and Senate, and be judged on its own.

Rule-changes to appropriations could easily facilitate such an approach in the House — the Senate is another matter, but all spending bills must originate in the House anyway. And of course, the legislative picture becomes even more complicated if Republicans take the House but not the Senate, as seems likely.

Anyway, here’s the letter:

Dear President Obama and Members of Congress,

Rising health care costs have burdened the economic prosperity of American businesses and families for far too long. The recently passed reform law fails to address this concern and is even likely to raise costs due to its imposition of burdensome regulations and over $500 billion of higher taxes.

To restore America’s prosperity, Congress should de-fund the current law until it can be repealed and replaced with proven free-market solutions that have increased access to care by decreasing costs in states around the country.

We look forward to working with you to advance America’s prosperity by making our health care system more accessible and affordable.

Sincerely,

  • William Allen, University of California Los Angeles
  • Charles W. Baird, California State University, East Bay
  • Chip Baumgardner, Pennsylvania College of Technology
  • Walter Block, Loyola University New Orleans
  • Samuel Bostaph, University of Dallas
  • Scott Bradford, Brigham Young University
  • William Butos, Trinity College
  • Phil Bryson, Brigham Young University
  • Bryan Caplan, George Mason University
  • Richard Cebulla, Armstrong Atlantic State University
  • Lloyd Cohen, George Mason University
  • Lee Coppock, University of Virginia
  • Jim Cox, George Perimeter College
  • Kirby Cundiff, Northeastern State University
  • Antony Davies, Duquesne University
  • Ronnie Davis, Printing Industries of America
  • Jeff Dorfman, University of Georgia
  • William Dougan, Clemson University
  • Floyd Duncan, Virginia Military Institute
  • Fred Esposto, Kutztown University
  • Susan Feigenbaum, University of Missouri, St. Louis
  • Charles Geiss, University of Missouri – Columbia
  • Micha Gisser, University of New Mexico
  • Ed Graham, University of North Carolina Wilmington
  • Gerald Gunderson, Trinity College
  • Dennis Halcoussis, California State University, Northridge
  • Scott Harrington, University of Pennsylvania
  • Bradley Hobbs, Florida Gulf Coast University
  • John Hoehn, Michigan State University
  • Thomas Howard, University of Howard
  • Bruce Hutchinson, University of Tennessee Chattanooga
  • Brian Jacobsen, Wisconsin Lutheran College
  • Daniel Klein, George Mason University
  • Kishore Kulkarni, Metropolitan State College of Denver
  • Bart Lee, Golden Gate University
  • Donald Luskin, Trend Macrolytics
  • Yuri N. Maltsev, Carthage College
  • Lawrence McQuillan, Pacific Research Institute
  • Roger Meiners University of Texas Arlington
  • Tracy Miller, Grove City College
  • Thomas Moeller, Texas Christian University
  • John Murray, University of Toledo
  • Allen Parkman, University of New Mexico
  • Judd Patton,  Bellevue University
  • William Peirce, Case Western Reserve University
  • Joseph Pomykala, Towson University
  • Ivan Pongracic, Hillsdale College
  • David Ranson, Wainwright & Co. Economics
  • Charles Rowley, George Mason University
  • Paul Rubin, Emory University
  • John Ruggiero, University of Dayton
  • John Seater, North Carolina State University
  • John Semmens, Laissez Faire Institute
  • Alan Shapiro, University of Southern California
  • Stephen Shmanske, California State University, East Bay
  • Robert Stein, First Trust Portfolios
  • Brian Strow, Western Kentucky University
  • Jason Taylor, Central Michigan University
  • David J. Theroux, The Independent Institute
  • Alex Tokarev, The King’s College
  • Nikolai Wenzel, Hillsdale College
  • Brian Wesbury, First Trust Portfolios
  • Gary Wolfram, Hillsdale College
  • Bill Yang, Georgia Southern University
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