GOP senators urge Boehner to block funds for ObamaCare ‘bailout’

GOP senators urge Boehner to block funds for ObamaCare ‘bailout’
© The Hill

Senate Republicans are calling on Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbying world A new kind of hero? Last week's emotional TV may be a sign GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger MORE (R-Ohio) to block any spending bill that pays for a program they deride as an “ObamaCare taxpayer bailout,” a move that could prompt another shutdown.

The 14 Republicans, led by Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioMilley says calls to China were 'perfectly within the duties' of his job Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE (R-Fla.), are targeting a temporary ObamaCare provision that aims to reduce the risk for insurers accepting new customers through the government-run exchanges.

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In a letter to Boehner, the GOP senators urged him to stop the Obama administration from spending “unappropriated and unauthorized funds,” on the program, which they said would be a misuse of taxpayer dollars.

“We must act to protect Congress’ power of the purse,” they wrote, accusing the president of trying to ignore lawmakers.

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), both potential 2012 presidential contenders along with Rubio, also signed on to the letter.

If the House chooses to keep the program out of the next spending bill — a move that would be opposed by the White House, the fight could lead to another shutdown. The government is currently funded through Dec. 11.

A GOP effort led by Cruz last October to defund ObamaCare led to a 16-day government shutdown that damaged Republicans in the polls.

Federal officials have long battled with Congress over how to fund the program, called the “risk corridor” provision.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has described the payments as “user fees,” arguing that the department has the authority to manage the program. A report from the Government Accountability Office, however, said the program would require an additional round of funding from Congress.

“Without that appropriation, any money spent to cover insurance company losses under the risk corridor program would be unlawful,” according to the letter.

Under the program, the government will offset unexpected losses by splitting extra profits among companies that face larger-than-expected medical bills for new customers. Federal health officials have described the program, which lasts until 2016, as “an important protection for consumers and insurers.”

Rubio has introduced the ObamaCare Taxpayer Bailout Protection Act, which would require HHS to ensure all payments for healthcare plans under the exchange cover the full cost so the federal government doesn’t have to subsidize the plan. 

He also pushed an unsuccessful bill last November to scrap the risk corridor program, one of a number of efforts by Republican lawmakers to undermine the Affordable Care Act.