A slew of recent articles (Bloomberg, Washington Post, National Journal) explaining the effort to defund Obamacare have all pointed out an important fact: A government shutdown wouldn't defund Obamacare.
But these articles have all glossed over another important fact: Defunding Obamacare would defund Obamacare.
The bill to keep the government fully funded after Sept. 30 is called the "continuing resolution" or CR. If Congress fails to pass a CR by Sept. 30, then we get a "government shutdown." But, of course, many government functions will keep operating, just not most of those functions that require annual appropriations.
Guess what doesn't require annual appropriations? Almost all of Obamacare. So, yes, B-Berg, NatJo and WaPo — a government shutdown won't defund Obamacare.
But that's not the whole story. The House passed a CR numbered H.J. Res 59. This House CR, in addition to funding the government at current levels, also contains a "defund Obamacare" provision. This provision at least aims to defund Obamacare, and I think it does:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no Federal funds shall be made available to carry out any provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ...
No entitlement to benefits under any provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ... shall remain in effect on and after the date of the enactment of this joint resolution, nor shall any payment be awarded, owed, or made to any State, District, or territory under any such provision.
Sure, there's some ambiguity as to whether the tax credits Obamacare created are affected, but the GOP staff who wrote the language argues that Obamacare is effectively moot if the House bill becomes law. From an aide to an appropriator:
"The defund provision of the CR prevents taxpayer dollars from being used to implement or enforce the law, including the individual mandate, employer mandates, subsidies, exchange operation, rules for insurance companies, etc."
So, it seems to be false when Ezra Klein writes that the " 'continuing resolution' that defunds Obamacare ... wouldn't actually stop Obamacare from being implemented."
Also misleading is the language coming from the Tea Partiers in the Senate.
But for the most part, no CR will fund Obamacare, even if Obama wrote it himself. You know what funds Obamacare? A bill called HR 3590, also known as the Affordable Care Act.
Obamacare funds Obamacare.
This is a point of contention between the Ted Cruz wing of the GOP and the rest of the GOP, because Cruz is now saying he will filibuster the House CR, which defunds Obamacare. He will block a motion to limit debate, because once debate is limited, Reid can strip the defund language with a simple majority vote.
But such a CR can't be called a "CR that funds Obamacare." It's really a "CR that doesn't defund Obamacare."
This is not merely semantics. This matters because Cruz's strategy involves a government shutdown. If Cruz kills the CR altogether, he's not blocking significant Obamacare funding — he's leaving Obamacare mostly alone, while cutting most other government funding.
In other words, Cruz and Heritage Action might want to justify filibustering the CR by claiming an amended CR "funds Obamacare" but that ignores the truth: Obamacare stays funded without a CR because, as stated at the beginning, a government shutdown doesn't defund Obamacare.