Rep. Michele Bachmann is threatening to leverage a must-pass budget bill to ensure Congress strips billions of dollars from the federal health care overhaul -- money she says was unfairly baked into the law.
Democrats dispute her charges and one GOP official said Bachmann's claim was "wrong," adding to the uncertainty over whether she could rally enough support in her party to direct the rescission in a House vote. But Bachmann, R-Minn., told Fox News she wants to use the fiscal 2011 budget process to eliminate $105 billion in "buried" health law funding. That money was included as "mandatory" spending over the next eight years, she said, meaning it's automatic and not subject to annual spending votes by Congress.
"This is a crime against democracy," Bachmann told Fox News on Tuesday. "No one knew that Harry Reid, Pelosi and Obama put $105 billion in spending in the bill. ... This is a bombshell."
The hefty down payment for the health law makes it more difficult for Republicans who want to de-fund the policy through the annual appropriations process. To remedy this, Bachmann said she wants to include language demanding the money back in the next short-term budget bill, which will probably be required to fund the government when the latest short-term bill expires March 18.
"You didn't tell the American people, you didn't tell the Senate, you didn't tell the House. Give the money back. And then we'll start talking about the budget. This is the first thing," Bachmann told Fox News Monday night.
But Democrats pushed back on Bachmann's claim, particularly an earlier remark she made about the funding being a "deceitful" trick hidden from public view.
One Democratic aide said the money was calculated as part of the original "score" for the bill presented to Congress.
"The Congressional Budget Office had this included in their score. They scored the bill and found it (saved) $1.2 trillion over 20 years," the aide said. "What is deceitful is Bachmann voting to end patients' rights while keeping her taxpayer-funded health care."
A senior GOP official also told Fox News that "there are revenue streams" mandated for most of the programs, but they don't add up to $105 billion as Bachmann claims.
"It's wrong," the official said, adding that, besides, "no Congress can bind a future Congress." The official also disputed the charge that the money was hidden.
Though Bachmann claims the authors of the health care law "buried" the money, the House had three months to find it before approving the final version last March.
Bachmann's also not the first person to point this out. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, tried earlier this year, without success, to block the $105 billion. The money was the subject of a study by Heritage Foundation fellow and former congressman Ernest Istook in late January.
Istook got his figures in large part from a Congressional Research Service report dated Oct. 14 of last year.
Though the information has been floating around in various Washington studies, Istook said the inclusion of up-front spending in the health care law is "extremely unusual."
"I am unaware of any other piece of authorizing legislation that included appropriations at all," he told FoxNews.com.
Istook wrote in January that the inclusion of the money was a major foul on Democrats' part. He accused the bill's authors of bypassing the normal appropriations process to block any future Congress from meddling with the money.
"Making years' worth of spending decisions in advance is an attempt to handcuff the current Congress and prevent it from determining current levels of spending," he wrote.
Among other provisions, about $40 billion would go to the Children's Health Insurance Program, $15 billion would go to a prevention and public health fund, $10 billion would go to Medicare and Medicaid innovation programs, and $9.5 billion would go to the Community Health Centers Fund.
Bachmann claims part of that spending would essentially give Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius a $16-billion "slush fund" that would allow her to do "whatever she wants with this money."
Bachmann called on the bill's supporters to give the money back, though Democrats who backed the health law, most notably President Obama, have argued that the law goes a long way toward insuring the uninsured and protecting health care consumers.