Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 4:10 PM ET, 12/21/2010

Senate votes to defund health-care reform and financial regulation

By Ezra Klein

The Senate passed the Continuing Resolution 79-16 this afternoon. Another way of saying that: The Senate voted to defund the implementation of both health-care reform and financial-regulation reform.

The good news is that law will keep the government's lights on until early March. The bad news is that the law does it by extending 2010's funding resolution -- and that resolution didn't include provisions for implementing the bills that were passed as the year went on.

Republicans had been talking about attacking the health-reform law by defunding it, but few thought they'd succeed without a fight. The assumption was that Democrats would shut down the government before they let Republicans take that money. But as it happened, there was no fight at all. The omnibus spending bill collapsed, and the continuing resolution compromise was reached within a few days. Most senators probably don't even know the implications their vote had for the implementation of bills passed over the past year.

This is, of course, a temporary resolution. So we might still see a fight on this early next year, or much more to the point, in March. In the meantime, the various agencies charged with implementing 2010's legislative achievements will have to do more with less -- which probably means they'll have to do less, and what they do get done will get done less well. You might also see them making strategic decisions about what they do and don't get done. To put it another way, if the Republicans are going to force the executive branch to cut back its activities, the executive branch may focus the cutbacks in sectors the Republicans rather like.

Nevertheless, this is bad news for the health-care bill and the financial-regulation bill. There's been a tendency to assume that the universe of options for passed legislation was binary: Either they went forward, or they get repealed. But with an angrily divided government, we may find ourselves in that little-known middle category: The Republicans can't repeal them and the Democrats can't fully fund them, and so rather than simply going forward, they limp forward.

By Ezra Klein  | December 21, 2010; 4:10 PM ET
Categories:  Budget  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: How to crack the New York Times most-popular list
Next: The 111th's biggest loser: Tax policy

Comments

What about unemployment benefits?

Posted by: lauren2010 | December 21, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

This isn't exactly right. The Healthcare bill (actually, the reconciliation bill HR 4872) passed with a 1 billion dollar appropriation to implement the bill. That fund will continue to exist until the fund is entirely used or revoked by a law -- it does not need to be renewed.

So while the executive be fully funded in a variety of areas (including the HHS/SEC/etc), they are not barred from using money on these new laws, and in the case of Healthcare, they have a billion dollar fund to use. So while they may have to cut back somewhat (using methods of their choosing), that is a far cry from what Republicans want.

Posted by: JonShields1 | December 21, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Ezra,

I like the reverse impounding doctrine:
"if the Republicans are going to force the executive branch to cut back its activities, the executive branch may focus the cutbacks in sectors the Republicans rather like."

Let's say that tax revenues can finance 60% of the federal govt's expenditures, and borrowing covers the remainder. If the Republicans refuse to increase the debt ceiling, then that means Obama will have discretion on which 60% of the govt. he wishes to fund.

Let me guess the areas that will get prioritized: DOJ, Courts, interest payments on debt, Social Security, non-contractor related defense expenditures, Medicare, FAA, other health & safety functions.

Which agencies get shut down? HHS, Agriculture, Education, Transportation, etc.

So when Democrats and other left-wing scribes scream how irresponsible not raising the debt ceiling would be, conservatives would just have to trot out Ezra Klein's Reverse Impound Doctrine (EKRID) to demonstrate that all the functions that would be shut down are the things that states could do on their own.

You've just laid out a legal principle any Republican President could use to actually cut spending on the Democrats' welfare state!

Thank you.

Posted by: ElGipper | December 21, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

ElGipper wrote "If the Republicans refuse to increase the debt ceiling, then that means Obama will have discretion on which 60% of the govt. he wishes to fund. Let me guess the areas that will get prioritized: DOJ, Courts, interest payments on debt, Social Security, non-contractor related defense expenditures, Medicare, FAA, other health & safety functions."

Except just those items you've listed add up to something like 80% of the federal budget. The Republicans will NEVER refuse to increase the debt ceiling.

Posted by: DavidinCambridge | December 21, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Actual defunding would mean an item in the appropriations bill or CR forbidding the use of money to implement the law. I am sure Obama would veto that. Meanwhile, it is just a matter of setting priorities with the funds available, something that is done all the time in government and business. The exchanges dont go into effect until 2014 so there is plenty of time to work on it with the funds that will be available. Further I suspect a lot of this will resolve itself after the House has its vote to repeal health care which will then die in the senate and they can tell their base they tried.

Posted by: gregspolitics | December 21, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Regarding "what about unemployment benefits" there has been little in the way of extensive FACTUAL articles/comments/broadcasts regarding the plight of the long-term unemployed, the so-called "#99ers." The recently passed 'Tax Cut & Unemployment Act of 2010' only extends the FILING period for unemployment benefits, there is nothing new (e.g., a Tier 5) for those who have previously exhausted their lifeline, as the 8,000,000 jobs lost to domestic plant closures and/or offshoring have NOT been replaced by 'green' jobs, or anything else. Things are so bad there is even a network "comedy" called 'Outsourced' and on a cable channel 'The Fairy Jobmother' is drawing an audience.

The POTUS 44 CEO Summit which just adjourned had NOTHING to offer as to when businesses might start rehiring. High unemployment rates and continuing home foreclosures do not foster an economic climate with a corresponding optimistic consumer demand which would result in additional staffing requirements to meet that demand.

Lastly, the latest Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meeting minutes were released. The Federal Reserve, which has as one of its missions "reducing unemployment" opined (this is a paraphrase) "...based on the current pathetic levels of "growth" in the US economy, it can be foreseen that the unacceptable national unemployment rates in excess of 9.5% will remain stuck at these levels for YEARS to come..."

Based on that sobering analysis, and other data, why would ANY company willingly consider assuming the risk of hiring ANYONE, except to possibly replace employees lost due to death/resignation?

Posted by: RSeldon | December 21, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

DavidinCambridge:

Not sure where you get 80%. It's actually closer to the following:

From 2009 FY:
Defense 23%
SS 20%
Interest 5%
Medicare 13%

These add up to 61%. Suspend contractor-related defense spending and expenditures not directly related to the war effort from defense to create breathing space for spending on DOJ, Courts, FAA, and health and safety and you'd come close to paying for all the important stuff without borrowing any money.

Posted by: ElGipper | December 21, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

ElGipper:

The sum of all non-defense discretionary spending in the FY2010 budget amounted to $704 billion, or 19.8% of the $3.55 trillion budget.

Posted by: DavidinCambridge | December 21, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Mandatory spending including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, TARP, and other programs is projected to be 56% (2.1 trillion out of 3.7 trillion) of total spending in FY2011.

That would leave you 4% for defense spending, net interest and any other appropriated spending.

You can see the data yourself on page 5 here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2011/assets/tables.pdf

Posted by: DeanofProgress | December 21, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse

"Nevertheless, this is bad news for the health-care bill and the financial-regulation bill. There's been a tendency to assume that the universe of options for passed legislation was binary: Either they went forward, or they get repealed. But with an angrily divided government, we may find ourselves in that little-known middle category: The Republicans can't repeal them and the Democrats can't fully fund them, and so rather than simply going forward, they limp forward."

Not that you would care much what I have here to say, but I take fault with you for this one. Because it is not clear here:
- whether you are simply a committed progressive who simply cry for any small setbacks; or
- you are one of those morons who goes on writing an OpEd in WaPo saying all that matters to the fate of Obamacare is Justice Kennedy / Supreme Court.

If you think simple de-funding for few months or even a year can cause such an irreparable damage to ObamaCare; why you would not highlight than in your reporting? When people have been pointing out the danger of 'de-funding' for so long; you kept on saying nothing is going to take ObamaCare except 'mandate decision'.

I find Ezra you are simply behind the curve here in terms how the Politics is unfolding. Not just Dems but Obama White House also have realized that there is no way in the world that it can fight with GOP to salvage ObamaCare.

The train is going to stop when repeal or effective killing of ObamaCare is complete. I think Obama must be thinking what are the ways by which he will accept the burial of ObamaCare and then make headway on health care issues.

There has to be a point in next few years when Obama enters into some kind of 'bargain' with GOP to either save ObamaCare in some manner or to rewrite ObamaCare with what you called Ryan Plan.

Look, the guy is already on the road to cut Social Security. What is logical next?

I do not think Obama has any options here.

What is happening is 'you' are blind sited here for the incoming train. Seems like you are too emotionally involved and simply in 'denial' state as far as accepting of unraveling of ObamaCare goes.

These are harsh words and very easy to brush aside as an opinion of one uneducated reader. But reading your blogs recently I cannot help but to have this impression; sorry to say.

Posted by: umesh409 | December 21, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

You see Ezra, what is getting lost is that Obama Presidency is mutating from 'activist Presidency' into 'care-taking Presidency'. For one thing I do not believe the latter type cannot deliver core changes and welfare of Americans. It can and obviously lame duck session is amply showing that.

If you think, only Regan could execute his Presidency as 'activist Presidency'. Obama must be realizing that with the 'marbles' he has got in Dem Party & Congress; as well as his own evolution; he cannot afford adventures of 'activist Presidency'.

We need this realization all across. The real problem for Dems is even after getting power they cannot run their agenda (they did not defend and lost in 2010). The issue is what needs to happen in Dem Politics so that 'activists Presidency' can be run. Is it as simple as like just Obama rolling his sleeves and fighting with GOP? I doubt that. There is more to that than meets the eyes.

Posted by: umesh409 | December 21, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

JohnShields1 is right. Hope Ezra knows this when he goes on Olbermann.

Posted by: bmull | December 21, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

DeanofProgress:

You don't understand the Reverse Impound Doctrine. Ezra's point was that it doesn't matter what the law prescribes. If there isn't any funding to enforce it or carry out its purposes, then the executive branch is free to prioritize those laws and programs he wishes to enforce.

"Mandatory spending including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, TARP, and other programs is projected to be 56% (2.1 trillion out of 3.7 trillion) of total spending in FY2011."

Interesting tidbit, but there is no constitutional requirement for Obama to spend money on Medicaid instead of the interest on the debt, FBI, Justice Dept., or war fighting requirements of the Defense department. If there isn't enough money to pay for everything, then he can't spend what he doesn't have.

In fact, there is no constitutional requirement for a President to borrow money to pay for "mandatory" spending programs.

A President could say, "I refuse to borrow any more money. I will only spend whatever cash comes from tax collections. I will use my discretion to prioritize which programs shall receive funding."

Such a President could proceed to shut down HHS, Agriculture, Energy, Labor, Transportation, and other agencies that could not be supported by ongoing tax collections.

No court or Congress could force the President to borrow any money. Be very afraid of a Republican President who would have the balls to do this. You know that the Tea Party will expect it once they learn it is a live option.

Posted by: ElGipper | December 21, 2010 11:23 PM | Report abuse

Yeap. In fact, did you know that Currently, many insurance companies do not allow adult children to remain on their parents' plan once they reach 19. Companies cannot do that any more. Search online for "Wise Health Insurance" and you can insure your kids if you are in the same boat.

Posted by: andrewthoone | December 22, 2010 1:08 AM | Report abuse

I'd like to amend one part of my post. Prior to the Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917, Congress would exercise its authority to borrow money under Article I, Sec. 8 by taking separate votes for every bond issue. It did not give the executive branch discretion under a debt ceiling to borrow money as it saw fit.

If a majority of Congress voted to issue bonds a raise cash for Treasury accounts, then the President would be required to spend those funds.

To that extent, Congress could force the executive branch to borrow money. However, under a debt ceiling regime, I do not believe it can compel the President to exercise his discretion to borrow money. Only a separate vote by Congress to borrow a specific amount could compel action by the executive branch.

Posted by: ElGipper | December 22, 2010 1:19 AM | Report abuse

Government limping forward is good for "We the People" as it will allow the debt to be repaid quicker and us to keep more of our money.
After all the money belongs to "We the People" and not the government. This is a difficult concept for the radical liberal elite to accept.

Posted by: rteske | December 22, 2010 6:55 AM | Report abuse

Ezra was all excited to see his liberal fantasies come true when the Democrats pushed through Obamacare and Fin Reg without any Republican support but now he's seeing the consequences of those actions. The Republican party had no input on either one of those Democratic driven bills so they have no vested interest in funding them. All of the other major pieces of legislation in the past had at least some bipartisian support and therefore there has always been some bipartisian support for continuing to fund them. Look for the Republicans to coninue their efforts, especially when they take control of the House next year, to coninue to look for ways to undermine these pieces of liberal Democratic legislation with their control over the federal purse strings. You shouldn't be surprised Ezra.

Posted by: RobT1 | December 22, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Gee -- you noticed Republican thugs never stop trying to mug the people for the benefit of the rich. Some of us have known this a long time. Democratic leaders and policy wonks, not so much ...

Posted by: janinsanfran | December 22, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps you could explain a little more about government funding. This sounds a little like earmarks, special funding for special projects. If my state passes new traffic laws, the police and highway patrol enforce them whether or not there are additional funds set aside to enforce those laws.

If the SEC gets funds, isn't it the role of the commissioners and managers to decide the priorities of their various functions? If writing new regulations is one of their functions and they choose to make it a priority, does the law prevent them from writing new financial regulations?

Posted by: sscritic | December 22, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Let the whole government just shut down. Our elected officials are so selfish, so self-centered and so uncaring about the people in this country, it's time to simply cut every thing off, including them.

I realize people will be hurt but it is apparently the only way to get these bums to focus on THE PEOPLE. They seem to forget that they are in Washington to do the people's business, not that of big banks, big oil, big insurance, big defense or big anything else. And if the only way to get that point across is to tank the whole *%!# thing, then so be it.

This country has had a revolution before. The US government is no more foreign to its people than the British government was to the colonists. And what goes around, generally comes around.

Posted by: joachim1 | December 22, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

This is an interesting example of the dynamics of our political system. One side or the other may gain a significant temporary advantage (such as controlling both houses and the Presidency with a filibuster proof number in the Senate) but the Country is closely divided around a large middle of moderate voters. If a President wants to do something relatively radical (e.g., the New Deal, the Great Society, Reagan's retraction of government expansion), it needs to have the support of at least some of the other side. If it does not, Congressmen stand for election every two years and not many changes are needed to swing control of the House.

Nancy Pelosi missed that point and a lot of her fellow Democrats paid the price (all for not as many of the most radical changes will likely be undone or simply waste away from lack of funding). I do not think that there will be enough die hards even among the remaining Liberals that they will be able to muster a banzai charge against the Republicans' efforts to roll back the worst aspects of Obama-care and Dodd-Frank.

If Obama is as smart as the Media purports, he will recognize the situation and look to come up with a more moderate and better thought out and reviewed version of both these messes that can attract the non-Tea Partiers among the Republicans. He has not hesitated to claim victory while recognizing the inevitable on the extension of the Bush tax rates and got the Media to characterize it as a victory. He has also garnered good press for negotiating a START Treaty that is likely no different than one Bush would have agreed to.

He seems at least shrewd if not smart. What does he care if the faithful in the coffee houses are disappointed. They're not going to vote for Sarah Palin! There are a lot of advantages to being King and he wants to stay there until 2016. He'll castigate the Republicans for not providing funding for his programs but he will not recoil from making sausage.

Posted by: beachnut | December 22, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

"To put it another way, if the Republicans are going to force the executive branch to cut back its activities, the executive branch may focus the cutbacks in sectors the Republicans rather like."

Which will only result is earmarks coming back.

Posted by: cprferry | December 24, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Starve the Beast: The Republican Plan to De-Fund the Health Care Law

House Minority Leader John Boehner is thinking, "Just you wait..."Republicans have made absolutely clear what they intend to do to block the new health care law -- starve it. (Jim Angle – Fox News)
There is going to be an extra inning in this health care ball game.
Read my article at http://www.under5cents.com/2010/12/starve-beast-republican-plan-to-de-fund.html

Posted by: under5cents | December 28, 2010 1:24 AM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company