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October 1, 2013

How John Boehner Blew His Best Chance to Defund ObamaCare


At this point it’s impossible to predict how the President Obama vs. the House government-funding battle will turn out. What is pretty clear is that House Speaker John Boehner blew his best chance at defunding ObamaCare by not returning to the normal way of funding the government. 

After last December’s budget fight, Boehner said that the House would return to “regular order,” meaning it would follow the normal budget appropriations process. Would that he had. 

There are 13 appropriations bills that fund the various segments of the federal government.  

In the past—that is, before our “post-partisan president”—congressional committees would start moving their respective budgets through the process. Once both houses passed an appropriation bill, Republican and Democrats leaders would meet in a conference to work out differences and decide on a compromise. All 13 are supposed to be drafted, passed and signed by the president by October 1.  

That’s regular order.  

It wasn’t unusual for some of those bills to get log-jammed for one, or many, reasons. But the less-controversial “approps bills” typically made it through without much problem. If the president and Congress were at loggerheads over some issue, it didn’t necessarily affect the whole government. And Congress might pass a continuing resolution (CR) to fund that part of the budget. 

But in the fall of 2008, congressional Democrats decided to ignore regular order and fund the whole government with a CR, in the hope that Obama would be much more willing to approve their spending binge. Well, they got that part right. 

And we haven’t been back to regular order since. While Rep. Paul Ryan has been able to pass a budget in the House, that’s just an outline. It doesn’t fund anything. 

Boehner should have told his House committees last summer to move forward on their various approps bills. All the bills, that is, except the one funding the Department of Health and Human Services, and any other appropriations bill that played a big role funding ObamaCare.  

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might have refused to vote on them, but at least the blame would be on him.  

Boehner had the right idea about returning to regular order. If only he had.


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