Harkin Ready to Defend Mandatory Spending in Health Law

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) “says he’s open to changes in the health care law if problems come up — but the money automatically provided by the law isn’t one of them,” POLITICO reports.

The roughly $105 billion in mandatory appropriations for the law, the Iowa Democrat said, is no different from the farm subsidies that run from year to year on federal funds that are also provided automatically. Some House Republicans — including his Iowa colleague, Rep. Steve King — have said the mandatory spending should be repealed because it’s hard for Congress to stop and has never been used on this scale.

“You might ask them about all the farm programs … because I see some of those are from rural states. That’s mandatory spending. It’s in the law, and it goes on year after year after year,” Harkin said in an interview for the POLITICO video series, “Health Care Reform: One Year Later.”

“We do a lot of that around here for things that we don’t want to have to come up year after year after year because … they have long-term implications for our country,” Harkin said.

Harkin has “strong reasons to support not only the health care law, but also the way it’s funded.”

He’s the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and he helped write the law, with a special focus on a new fund that pays for prevention and wellness programs. But he’s also an appropriator and the chairman of the Labor-HHS subcommittee that will have a big hand in setting future funding for the law.

He is not completely opposed to tweaking the law.

“I have never taken the position that the health care bill can’t be tweaked, can’t be changed, as we go down,” Harkin said. “As we see new problems that arise, of course we can change it. This is not the Ten Commandments, written in stone for all eternity. This is a law.”

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