Rep. King pushes to defund mandatory spending in health law

House Republicans refused to grant a waiver for the consideration of an amendment to the 2011 funding bill that would bar mandatory spending for the president’s healthcare law.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a member of the Tea Party caucus, asked the panel to protect his measure, which keep $105 billion of funds allocated in the law over 10 years from going into effect.

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The House is set to debate this week a continuing resolution that would fund the government through the end of the 2011 fiscal year. Republicans intend to allow unlimited amendments to be offered.

Under House rules, members cannot legislate on appropriations bills. King’s measure technically “legislates” because it would prevent mandatory spending from going into effect. But the Rules Committee has the power to waive the rule to allow a vote on King’s measure.

During the course of the debate at the committee meeting on Monday night, the eight GOP committee members seemed skeptical of King’s approach – which would give his measure protected status when the House debates the continuing resolution.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said that King has “lots of other opportunities” to offer a similar amendment to other bills this year.

But King, an ardent opponent of the healthcare law, argued that the continuing resolution was the best leverage for implementing his measure.

Four Democrats on the committee sat back and watched the unusual scene unfolding before them in the stifling Rules committee hearing room.

At one point, liberal Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.) – a strong proponent of the healthcare law – said to King “this has been one of the most fascinating discussions I’ve witnessed in this committee.”

“I just want to point out for the record even though I strongly disagree with what you are trying to do, there are eight of them (Republicans) and only four of us (Democrats) so I can’t help you,” McGovern said.

Foxx added that King could offer his amendment on the House floor, since the process to alter the bill will be considered under a “modified open rule.”

But King said that he was aware that his amendment would be ruled out of order on the floor, and he would have a difficult time challenging that ruling since, he too, believes his amendment would be out of order unless the committee made an exemption for its consideration.

It is unknown if he will bring it to the House floor anyway in light of the committee vote.

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) supports King’s intention and told him: “I just want to remind you that there are a lot of creative minds here, there’s a lot of time between now and a final vote on this bill. We will find some way to be successful.”

The House voted to undo the president’s healthcare law in January. That vote passed but the effort is expecxted to fail in the Senate.

The committee also approved a "modified, open rule" for floor consideration of the continuing resolution.

Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) said "buckle your seat belts" in preparation for the untold number of amendments that members have until Tuesday, close-of-business, to submit for consideration on the House floor.

The committee voted 8-4 in favor of the GOP rule that did not set any formal time limit but reserved the right to do so on Thursday, if the top Republican and Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee couldn't manage to agree on such matters as amendments are submitted by lawmakers.

-- This story was updated at 9:36 p.m.