As President Barak Obama’s health care reform law, a signature piece of his agenda, passed Congress this weekend and will be signed into law tomorrow, there have been cries of unfunded mandates by many members of Congress and state governors as well.
Just what is an unfunded mandate?
An unfunded mandate is a requirement imposed by Congress on state or local governments with no funding from the federal government to pay for it.
As you can imagine, cash strapped states struggling to maintain services and curtail deficit spending are not fond of unfunded mandates.
At least 12 states are reportedly set to file suit challenging the constitutionality of the health care bill’s unfunded mandates. In these states, and others, governors are concerned that they will be stuck with an unfunded mandate as part of the overhaul.
Governors generally feel that unfunded mandates from the federal government are simply not acceptable because they often place an undue burden on state budgets. Even former governors in the administration can be expected to be predisposed to opposing the placing of unfunded mandates on state or local governments.
Naturally, this can and does lead to intra-party tensions as fiscally conservative members may raise objections to legislation that they deem to impose unfunded mandates.
In the US House of Representatives, members can raise a point of order against provisions that create new unfunded mandates arguing that the package contains unfunded mandates in violation of House rules. Unlike regular points of order, the Chair does not rule on the merits of the point of order. Instead, if the Chair decides that the point of order was appropriately made; 20 minutes of debate on its merits may be held. The full House of Representatives then votes on the question of consideration of the point of order and that vote decides whether the underlying provision may be considered by the House.