Speaker of the House John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy have consistently blocked efforts by Reps. Steve King and Michele Bachmann to defund the so-called "Obamacare slush fund" via the continuing resolution or House spending bills, despite being told by House Republican leadership staff that they could do so under current House rules.
"There is no way we can include their [Bachmann and King's] amendment; it would just bog us down and undercut the leadership goal of getting real cutting done through negotiations with Democrats and the White House," says a leadership aide, sticking to talking points generated out of Cantor's office after Tuesday's vote in the House to extend funding for government through early April.
Bachmann and King have been pressing to zero out the $105 billion that funds the Obama Administration's implementation of the president's health care plan.
Despite broad support among the American public for Congress to draw back spending on Obamacare, it has done nothing to remove the $105 billion that the previous Congress had allocated. Under the terms of the funding allocation, about $5 billion is budgeted for implementation purposes in FY2011, while another $100 billion has been appropriated for FY2012 through 2020.
Staff for McCarthy privately attempted to distance their boss from Boehner and Cantor. "[McCarthy] is not opposed to finding a way to zero out the implementation funding," said an aide. "But if the majority leader and Speaker don't want it, the whip isn't in a position to push too hard. But let's be clear, there is nothing to all the hooey about how leadership is supporting funding of Obamacare, because we aren't bending to every whim of King and Queen Michele."
In fact, House leadership is. According to sources familiar with discussions among House Republican leadership, Boehner and Cantor were informed by GOP leadership staff that it would have been "relatively easy" to gain the necessary votes to change House rules to allow the Bachmann-King amendment to be included in the continuing resolution. "It has been done in the past without a lot of sound and fury," says a current House member. "You change the rules and then you include the amendment that you want now that the rules have been changed. I don't know why this situation is any different."
Instead of playing the parliamentary gambit, Boehner and Cantor pressed for a vote on the spending and whipped more than half of the freshman Republican class to vote with them, leaving their Tea Party supporters back home wondering how their representatives could so quickly break with their constituencies.
For Boehner and Cantor's part, they have promised Republicans a vote on the Bachmann-King amendment as a stand-alone bill. The only problem: such a bill has no chance of passage in the Senate with a Democrat majority.
"This vote gives us the ability to say we voted to defund the slush fund, where it goes from there doesn't really matter," says an aide to Cantor. "We just want this off the table so we can get to some serious budget negotiations, not political stunts."