Health care reform: Apparently the CBO isn’t cooperating
If Democrats want to have a vote on the bill this week, after a promised 72 hours availability on-line before the final vote, they have until tomorrow afternoon if they plan on voting Saturday. But Congressional Quarterly is reporting:
House Democratic leaders are still struggling to produce a final health care overhaul bill at an acceptable official cost estimate, but Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Tuesday they continue to plan a final vote this week. House leaders were to huddle late Tuesday afternoon, following a noon session of the full Democratic Caucus. There were reports they are having trouble drafting a bill that meets their budgetary targets….
Rank-and-file Democrats did not talk about the details, but said that the CBO scores had come up short. “They were less than expected” in terms of deficit reduction, said Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, who plans to vote for the bill.
In reality it isn’t the Congressional Budget Office that is coming up short, but the cost of the bill they’re proposing as a fix. As the American Spectator reports:
There are several things that Democrats are up against when it comes to the CBO score. The most important is that, based on reconciliation instructions, the “fix” bill must be shown to reduce the deficit by at least $1 billion. The challenge is, that’s after assuming that the Senate bill is law. In other words, the reconciliation bill can’t claim any of the deficit reduction from the Senate bill, but rather it must reduce the deficit relative to the Senate bill. Yet the changes that are being talked about will cost a lot of money. This includes eliminating the “Cornhusker kickback” and offering enhanced Medicaid subsidies to all states, increasing subsidies for the purchase of insurance, eliminating the so-called “donut hole” on Medicare prescription drug benefits, and whatever else they put in the bill. At the same time, delaying until 2018 the enactment of the “Cadillac tax” would be scored as a reduction in revenue, and thus add further to the deficit. They’d have to make up the gap through tax increases as well as try to siphon “savings” away from the student loan bill.
Yes, the rumors about the inclusion of a full takeover of the student loan program by government appear to be true and it has been included in health care reform. Look, if they’re going to trash the Constitution and the legislative process this badly, they may as well go all-in. Their problem is going all-in has apparently cost them much more than they thought it would and thus they still don’t have an acceptable bill.
Most likely they’re going to tinker with this until they get what they want in a score. Again keep in mind that this is reform which collects taxes for 10 years but only spends for 6 (benefits in full don’t kick in until 2014) thereby giving the appearance of bending the cost curve down within the 10 year window the CBO is statutorily limited to look at (and shooting the cost curve up after that). I have every confidence that House Democrats can come up with the same sorts of accounting tricks and nonsense that are in the original bill to get the score they want from CBO. But can they do it this week?
Everyday this is delayed means House Democrats are one day closer to the mid-terms and more and more Democrats are saying “no” to the original bill.