House Votes to Defund 'ObamaCare' in Burst of Activity on Spending Bill
Published February 18, 2011
In this Feb. 9, 2011, file photo House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, center, with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., right, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks to reporters outside the White House in Washington. (AP)
The House voted to defund President Obama's health care overhaul on Friday during a sustained burst of floor activity on a temporary spending bill.
The House passed the health care measure, 239-187, as an amendment to a bill that would keep the government lights on through the end of the fiscal year but also impose deep cuts on domestic programs.
Among the other actions the House took was to reject a controversial plan to end the Pentagon's sponsorship of a NASCAR team. Another measure, banning federal aid to Planned Parenthood, was passed.
The proposals were among more than 120 amendments remaining for the House to vote on as Republican leaders wind down a week of frenzied action on the spending bill.
The overall bill is the first step in an increasingly bitter struggle between Democrats and Republicans over how much to cut federal agencies' funding over the second half of the budget year that ends Sept. 30. Current funding runs out March 4 and a temporary spending bill will be needed to avoid a government shutdown.
The focus of Friday's session was the health care overhaul, which dominated Congress' work in 2009 and was enacted last year.
Rep. Denny Rehberg's amendment would starve the overhaul of any federal funds for the rest of fiscal 2011, which ends Sept. 30. The GOP has virtually no chance of killing the law because of support for the program from Obama and the Democratic-run Senate, but House Republicans have been trying relentlessly to chip away at it.
"Today's vote is the latest victory for the American public and our country in preventing the disastrous Obamacare law from forever damaging our health care system and hampering job creation," Rehberg said in a written statement. "Our efforts -- and my amendment -- will save billions of wasted funding while opening the door for true health care reform that reduces costs and improve access."
Another amendment that made headlines was one introduced Wednesday by Rep. Betty McCollum that would have prevented the U.S. Army from spending $7 million on NASCAR and $5 million on drag racing in 2011 as well as millions more by the Air Force and Navy in sponsorship deals intended to generate recruitment interest. Her proposal sought to give Republicans another target for slashing wasteful spending.
McCollum, who appeared with Muppet characters at a news conference Wednesday to push for continued funding of public broadcasting, argued that too much money is being spent by the government on racing. She noted that the tax deal reached between Republicans and Obama at the end of 2010 grave breaks to track and facilities owners to fund capital projects at a cost of $40 million.
But NASCAR backers say McCollum ignores the value of the dollar spent at NASCAR. According to Col. Derek W. Crotts, who manages the Army's NASCAR marketing and advertising program, nearly one-third -- 46,000 -- of the 150,000 leads Army recruiters get each year come from motorsports events.
The amendment failed in a 281-148 vote.
Indiana Rep. Mike Pence's proposal targeting Planned Parenthood also captured national attention. His proposal would eliminate the more than $75 million a year the group receives from the federal government to provide family planning and sex education, mostly to poor women.
Even though the Hyde Amendment bans the use of taxpayer money for abortions, the debate on the Planned Parenthood amendment devolved into a testy, at times emotional exchange about abortion Thursday night, chewing up nearly three hours on the House floor.
That amendment passed 240-185.
"This afternoon's vote is a victory for taxpayers and a victory for life," Pence said in a statement. "By banning federal funding to Planned Parenthood, Congress has taken a stand for millions of Americans who believe their tax dollars should not be used to subsidize the largest abortion provider in America."
But Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, denounced the proposal as an "extreme and dangerous piece of legislation."
"The outcome of this vote is not a surprise, but it is radically out of step with mainstream American values and it is out of line with the issues voters want Congress to focus on," she said.
"To be clear, the amendment to prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding does nothing to reduce the deficit and it does nothing to improve the economy," she added. "In fact, health professionals will actually lose their jobs as a result, and, most egregiously, it takes health care away from American women who cannot afford to pay for it on their own."
Another prominent amendment awaiting a vote would restore all funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting since the underlying bill eliminates the $460 million designated for public broadcasters.
House Democrats weren't the only ones who endured setbacks in the session. Republicans rejected requests from conservative members to cut even deeper in the spending bill.
By a 281-147 vote, the House refused to cut $22 billion more in domestic programs. The overall bill would cut $60 billion from federal programs in the remaining seven months of the government's current budget year.
The defeated proposal would have trimmed 5.5 percent more from domestic programs and 11 percent more from Congress' own budget. Defense and other security programs would have been exempted.
Democrats voted no overwhelmingly -- and Republicans who also voted that way said the plan went too far.
Fox News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
02/18/11 02:32 PM ET
The House approved a GOP amendment to federal spending legislation Friday that would block fiscal year 2011 funding for EPA’s implementation of greenhouse gas regulations.
The vote was 249-177.
The amendment — sponsored by Texas Republicans Ted Poe, Joe Barton and John Carter — overlaps with a similar provision already in the underlying fiscal year 2011 spending plan.
But holding a vote on EPA’s regulations specifically provided Republicans a chance to issue an overt rebuke of the White House's climate agenda.
Republicans Seek to Block FCC Internet Rules
WASHINGTON -- Republicans in the House of Representatives moved to block the Federal Communications Commission from enforcing new rules that prohibit broadband providers from interfering with Internet traffic on their networks.
With a 244-181 vote on Thursday, Republican leaders succeeded in attaching an amendment to a sweeping spending bill that would bar the FCC from using government money to implement its new "network neutrality" regulations.
The rules prohibit phone and cable companies from favoring or discriminating against Internet content and services, including online calling services like Skype and Web video services like Netflix that could compete with their core operations. The FCC's three Democrats voted to adopt the regulations late last year over the opposition of the agency's two Republicans.
The rules are already facing court challenges from Verizon Communications Inc. and Metro PCS Communications Inc. Republicans in both chambers of Congress have introduced legislation to try to repeal the rules outright.
Republicans argue that the net neutrality rules amount to onerous and unnecessary regulations that will discourage phone and cable companies from continuing to upgrade their broadband networks by making it too hard for them to earn a healthy return on those investments. They also maintain that the FCC overstepped its authority in adopting the rules.
Republican Rep. Greg Walden, the sponsor of the spending bill amendment and chairman of the House Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, said his measure is "about keeping the government out of the business of running the Internet."
The FCC had no comment Thursday.
The new FCC rules require broadband providers to let subscribers access all legal online content, applications and services over their wired networks.
The rules do give providers flexibility to manage data on their systems to deal with network congestion and unwanted traffic, including spam, as long as they publicly disclose those practices. But they prohibit unreasonable network discrimination -- a category that would likely include "paid prioritization," which favors the broadband providers' own traffic or the traffic of business partners that can pay extra.
The regulations also prohibit wireless carriers from blocking access to any websites or competing services such as Internet calling applications on mobile devices, and they require carriers to disclose their network management practices, too. Still, they do give wireless companies more flexibility to manage data traffic because wireless systems have less network bandwidth and can become overwhelmed with traffic more easily than wired lines.
While Republican efforts to repeal the FCC rules are likely to face an uphill battle in the Senate, where Democrats remain in control, the regulations may be harder to defend in court.
Both Verizon and Metro PCS are challenging the rules in federal appeals court in the District of Columbia. That is the same court that ruled last year that the FCC had exceeded its legal authority in rebuking cable giant Comcast Corp. for blocking its subscribers from accessing an Internet file-sharing service used to trade online video and other big files. Comcast maintained that traffic from the service was clogging its network.
The agency said Comcast had violated broad net neutrality principles first established by the commission in 2005. Those principles served as a foundation for the formal rules adopted by the FCC late last year.
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