Things Are About to Get Ugly

Word is that House Republicans will attach an amendment to the latest federal spending bill that will cut-off funding for the health care bill.

The last Congress never finalized a budget for the current fiscal year—the feds have been operating under a series of continuing resolutions. The most recent one will expire on March 4th. If another resolution is not agreed to, much of the government has to shutdown.

House Republicans, under heavy pressure from their base, have decided to take the Democrats on over the new health care law by cutting all remaining funding for implementation of the law in the current 2010 fiscal year (October to October).

Democrats, under the same heavy pressure from their base to protect the bill, aren’t about to let them do that. While the Republicans can accomplish this in the House—and will next week—they don’t have the votes in the Senate and they don’t have the President’s pen.

Now, I know the Republicans won the last election and they control the House. But what is their end game here?

Shut the government down until the Democrats agree to suspend the health care law? With Democrats under the same intense pressure from their base to protect the new law at all costs, they aren’t going to agree to do that.

With the polls showing the country evenly split on this law, about the only political outcome either side will accomplish is to show their base just how macho they are.

Just where might a compromise occur? HHS can have half the money it needs? That won’t make the Republican base happy.

Where will this end?

As George W Bush used to say, don’t get into a war unless you have an exit strategy.

Robert Laszweski has been a fixture in Washington health policy circles for the better part of three decades. He currently serves as the president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates of Alexandria, Virginia. You can read more of his thoughtful analysis of healthcare industry trends at The Health Policy and Marketplace Blog, where this post first appeared.

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22 replies »

  1. political will to win sums up the problem right there. If you don’t have political will you don’t send our sons to their death in the first place. When we declare war if we aren’t ready to send every solider, marine, seaman, and airman we have to kick ass and end it asap and spend every penny needed then we have no business doing it int he first place.
    Since WW2 we have never fought a war with the political will to win, our leaders are always worried not to send to many troops or what it will cost etc etc, concerns that should never be brought up during a war.
    That being said was the short funding the last year the only reason we lost the war, not at all, we lost it when we half ass started it. Was it an example of using funding restraint to achiecve political goals when the votes where lacking? I say so.

  2. @nate- Having served in the military in the 70s, and having maintained a life long interest in military history, I think that your assertion is mostly wrong. Modern military historians have moved past the stabbed in the back narrative. Besides, I dont believe the Vietnam war was a bill. While I read lots of history, my knowledge is not complete. If you can think of a bill somewhere on this order of magnitude that was not overturned, but killed off by sabotage I would be glad to hear about it. I would highly recommend McMaster’s Dereliction Of Duty as a good summation of a modern POV on the topic of Vietnam. Even Col. Summers in his classic makes it pretty clear that we made many errors in the prosecution of the war and never really generated the political will needed to win. If you should want to read his book, it helps if you read Clausewitz first.

  3. Two comments here:
    1. Just watching some sound bites of what Berwick allegedly said today at a congressional hearing was not just pathetic, it was the echo of blog posts and commenters here who think this legislation is the second coming of Christ. He really did not say one thing in this legislation was bad, even almost word for word repeating the witch Pelosi’s lame agenda of “let’s see the bill play out to see what is in it”.
    I mean, what logic on Earth is this!? Write legislation and then determine the consequences by just letting them play out unchallenged. This is why the Democrats are Democraps to me now. They have one downed the Republican idiocracy I have endured the first 8 years of this millenium!
    2. I apologize for not providing the link for readers to read what I will quote below, but seek out Jonathan Turley’s oped piece in the February 7 USA Today entitled “How the Health care bill became a ‘Ford Pinto’ law. I have heard this man talk at various sites, and he strikes me as a moderate, objective critic of the law and American political follies, and believe me when I quote the following are his words:
    “Even if one accepts that the removal of the clause [severability clause] was just some colossal, inexplicable blunder, it was the blunder of the White House and Congress–not the courts. The result was a Ford Pinto law–a fast and cheap vehicle that would explode with even low speed collisions.”
    Amen to that analysis! And to listen to the sheer repetitive nonsensical defense by these apologists and defenders is like feeling a boil just grow under your skin without any relief. It gets beyond annoying, it is disruptive and painful! The Democrats screeching of how the Republicans are ruining opportunity is as projective and hypocritical as the commentary of Republicans defending the need to invade Iraq.
    I’ll leave you with this comment near the end of the article:
    “In the end, however, it seems a bit forced for the Obama administration to throw around the old cry of “judicial activism” when it pushed through a law that removed the critical safety provision for severability. The problem with games of chicken is that sometimes the other guy does not jump before the cliff.”
    I have no expectation of the usual suspects to say anything different that shows a sincere interest to look at this legislation more impartially. I just hope the readers I write to for consideration and interest think about this as objective and unbiased as you can.

  4. Ultimately, we can debate until we are blue in the face. But we are already paying for the uninsured through emergency room care, lost production, etc. If you want to leave it to the state level, fine by me. But the states that have the most insured citizens will be better for it.

  5. Why does it have to be done at the federal level Lynn, why can’t it be left to the States where it belongs?

  6. How exactly does stopping funds flowing in the federal gov’t help resolve the our health problems of access, costs, and quality? Our citizens health is NOT a game. The politics played in DC is far removed from the daily needs of human beings (insured or not). Stopping health reform doesn’t resolve anything. Constituents are sick and still need care.
    If we can’t agree on how to organize and pay for care for our citizens, can we at least agree to provide a dignified death and make hospice care universal? Seems like the minimally adequate thing we might do.
    The French do it. The Germans do it. And they don’t leave 20% of their population begging for care. Why is it we can’t?

  7. I think we know how it will be portrayed in the media, the populace will have no idea there is alternatives to Federal management. I’m not sure 50% of the populace even knows there is a difference between State Government and Federal Goivernment, to them it is just all Government.
    I have seen numerous people argue or state why does the right oppose ObamaCare then suggest the states do the same thing, completly unaware we are a republic.
    It would have to be a concerted effort by a group of states to take back power for the idea to even get mentioned in the media.

  8. I am sympathetic to Nate’s view on the prospect of the Federal government ceasing routine operations. Though it will likely play out in one of two ways depending on how well it is portrayed to the populace.The shutdown will be used as a lever to wrest more control over the citizenry from local and state governments.The shutdown will result in both the states and local governments consolidating (or reclaiming) control over the citizenry. You preference for one or the other will depend largely whether you find yourself a “Federalist” or “Anti-Federalist” as described by the earliest debates on the formation of the governing bodies.Suffices to say, a protracted shutdown in the government wouldn’t be a comfortable situation for those employed by the federal government. Nor would it be a comfortable scenario for those whose benefits are administered by a federal agency. In truth, it is a “desperation” measure, as it seeks to cause change through the infliction of symbolic “pain”. You don’t attract flies with vinegar.Personally, being the anti-federalist that I am, I would hope to see that the state and local governments exert more pressure on the federal government in an effort to reclaim lost control. It is a far more notable statement to have a state government simply refuse to comply with the federal authorities. Which is what you see happening with the state court challenges to the health care legislation.

  9. sorry Cut not cut off, that doesn’t chage the point you and rbar can’t seem to grasp that this is not the first time Congress has used funding to stop a law they disagree with, why is it you and rbar spin so hard to cover up the fact with a tricial grammitical beef? Steve claimed this set a precident, obviosuly it did not regardless if the correct wording was cut or cut off.
    If you really want to split hairs when you reduce funding from 1.4 to 700 some operations obviouslly have to be cut off.
    taking your point a little further Determinded that is why we should NEVER give politicans power over matters they don’t have any right legislating.

  10. Gotta love this extremist mentality from both sides, “it is our way or no way.” Meanwhile, those of us in the middle, which by the way is the majority of the country, gets screwed either way this plays out.
    Pay attention folks, once and for all, this is why we should NEVER let one party rule the Legislative and Executive Branches at the same time. Remember this come 2012, because as painful 2008-10 has been, 2000-2006 was no picnic either!

  11. Surely Mr. Laszewski knows that an amendment adopted by a single branch of the Congress doesn’t “cut off spending for health care bill.” Why can’t writers write the truth? Why must they exaggerate the importance of symbolic steps?

  12. How would a dysfunctional federal government bring the country down? So our parks would be closed? IRS wouldn’t be hassling people? HUD, HHS, and other dysfunctional agencies would be closed. What the politicians should really be scared of is the public seeing how well we can get along without them and leaves them shut down.
    Most of what the federal government does should be done by the states anyways. Shut the fed down for rest of the year.

  13. I don’t think there can be compromise. Either one side gives in entirely, or the country is brought completely down over the issue of health care. A nation divided against itself cannot stand. And the issue that brings down a particular nation defines that nation and its integrity.

  14. We are Huntsville Alabama Chiropractors <a href=“>http://www.millarchiro.com&gt; Millar Chiropractic. Last week we did an informal poll of about 100 patients to determine how they felt about the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The most interesting thing is not whether they approved of or were against Affordable Care Act. The interesting thing is that the overwhelmingly majority polled(approx 98%) felt that The Supreme Court should immediately decide if the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. If not constitutional, then strike it down; and, if the Act is constitutional, then we can argue about provisions and funding. Dr Greg Millar DC

  15. I’m sure the South Vietnmese would disagree with you but the point was this did not set precedent like Steve claimed, Congress has been doing this for atleast 40-50 years. Why is it you liberals are so opposed to factual conversations? Facts are such easy things to look up and recite yet you avoid them like the plague.

  16. Yeah Nate, there were definitely not enough bombs dropped on Vietnam in the 60s and 70s. Is this you version of the stab-in-back legend? I don’t think a government shutdown was part of this, though.

  17. more recently;
    WASHINGTON ‚Äî Democrats want to cut President Bush’s budget for Guantanamo Bay prison in half, beating the administration to the punch in shutting down the facility for terror detainees.
    How many people would care right now if Washington did shut down? It would go over much better this time then last.

  18. “It also sets an interesting precedent I believe.”
    Don’t know much History do you Steve?
    What happened when Democrats in Congress cut off funding for the Vietnam War?
    Historians have directly attributed the fall of Saigon in 1975 to the cessation of American aid. Without the necessary funds, South Vietnam found it logistically and financially impossible to defeat the North Vietnamese army. Moreover, the withdrawal of aid encouraged North Vietnam to begin an effective military offensive against South Vietnam. Given the monetary and military investment in Vietnam, former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage compared the American withdrawal to “a pregnant lady, abandoned by her lover to face her fate.” 2 Historian Lewis Fanning went so far as to say that “it was not the Hanoi communists who won the war, but rather the American Congress that lost it.”

  19. It also sets an interesting precedent I believe. If you disagree with legislation passed by the other party, but do not have the votes to overturn it, resort to procedural ploys to sabotage it. Couple this with lack of a replacement bill, and I think it pretty clear what the goal is for this Congress.