GOP Lawmakers Target $105B in Spending Found in Health Care Law

Republican lawmakers are up in arms over what they say was $105 billion in unannounced spending tucked into Democrats' legislation overhauling the nation's health care system.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, in an interview Monday with Fox News' Sean Hannity, suggested that this spending was one reason Obama and congressional Democratic leaders were in such a hurry to pass the legislation in late 2009.

“We didn’t get the bill until a literally couple of hours before we were supposed to vote on it,” Bachmann told Hannity, saying that the spending was split up and put in different portions of the proposed legislation.

The conservative Heritage Foundation uncovered the spending, which had been tallied by the Congressional Research Service and Congressional Budget Office.

It falls under the heading of mandatory spending, because it is controlled by laws other than annual appropriations acts. Such mandatory funds could remain available for the Obama administration to spend even if Republicans manage to defund the health care law.

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 Obama, have argued that, when taken as a whole, the law goes a long way toward insuring the uninsured, bringing down health care costs and protecting health care consumers.

Republicans may use ongoing negotiations over short-term spending bills to take a stand on the health care law's mandatory spending. With the latest bill to keep the government running set to expire March 18, Bachmann said some Republicans have written language that requires the authors of any new spending bill to forego the health care spending before dealing on the budget, though it isn't clear how much support such a measure would have in the full Republican caucus, let alone how much chance it would have of passing Congress.