Rep. Steve King Vs. Rep. Steve King On "Unprecedented" Mandatory Spending

March 15, 2011 11:59 am ET — Salvatore Colleluori

Rep. Steve King

Last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) revealed supposed "legislative fraud" that was "hidden" in the Affordable Care Act. This week, after nearly every fact-checking organization out there, as well as her own spokesman, said that it was not, in fact, hidden, Bachmann still hasn't given up on her new excuse to defund the law. For the next round, she has teamed up with her close ally, Rep. Steve King (R-IA), to lead the charge to eliminate the mandatory spending included in the bill.

The reason this issue came up after almost a year is because of a report by Heritage Foundation fellow and former Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK) purporting to expose the "fraud." As Istook testified in a recent congressional hearing:

One largely unknown fact is that $6-billion or more was immediately appropriated in the new law and approximately $105-billion more was appropriated for FY2011 and beyond. That violates the typical Congressional process of appropriations. The normal process typically involves enacting authorization bills that authorize spending, and then follows those with separate legislation that actually appropriates the money. This enables those to be balanced with other spending decisions. The PPACA contained large authorizations for future appropriations as well as containing these actual appropriations. That made it quite different from most bills, even major legislation.

King recently said himself, "Automatic appropriations that go on for 10 years and, in some categories, in perpetuity, that trigger the spending of the federal money without Congress approving it in the future years, ... in magnitude, it's unprecedented. It's a tactic that's been used in minor ways in the past."

If Istook and King are right, then surely there wouldn't be any other "major legislation" with mandatory appropriations — except, of course, there is. According to the CBO, the Republican-sponsored, Republican-passed Medicare Part D drug benefit "included an estimated $552 billion in mandatory spending." In total, according to Bruce Bartlett, former Republican domestic policy adviser to President Reagan, Medicare Part D will cost $1 trillion over 10 years.

Here's the real twist: King voted for Medicare Part D when it passed the House in 2003 despite believing that it would be unsustainable. According to CNN:

"As this moves forward, I think it will grow," said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, adding that he believes there's "no way" the government could afford to sustain such a program in the years ahead."

But in the end, King ended up voting for the program that had $552 billion in mandatory appropriations (much more than the $105 billion in the Affordable Care Act) because he, according to the Des Moines Register, "receiv[ed] assurances on rural reimbursement money for Iowa," or what amounts to the promise of an earmark.