Free Markets, Free People

deem and pass


Democrats drop “deem and pass” – amendment package may be key vote

The Democrats have decided not to use the “Slaughter solution” also known as “deem and pass” during tomorrow’s vote on health care reform.  Apparently there will be an up or down vote on the two bills, i.e. the Senate version of HCR and to pass a package of amendments to the law.

Problem – or not – does it matter what sequence they’re done in?

The Republicans are claiming you can’t amend a law that isn’t a law yet.  In other words, they’re claiming that unless the Senate HCR bill is signed into law, it can’t be amended.  And Democratic House members just don’t trust the Senate enough to pass that first.  Thus the proposed “deem and pass” attempt.

However, per Byron York, sequencing really isn’t as big a problem as you may think it should be (i.e. if you’re a logical person who thinks the GOP argument makes logical sense, you’re obviously not used to living the the same world as Congress):

I just talked with a Republican rules expert, and it appears that there is nothing in the rules of the House that will prevent Democrats from scheduling the vote for the amendments package before the vote on the Senate bill itself — that is, voting to amend the law before it becomes law.

“As a technical matter of the rules of the House, you can pass individual bills in any order you want,” says the expert. The expert said Republican Rep. Joe Barton, who argued that the House could not amend the Senate bill before it became law, was making an “integrity-based” argument based on what should be done. “But as a strict construction matter of the House rules, there’s no bar” to doing what the Democrats intend to do, the expert said.

“To quote Mr. Hastings,” he concluded, “they can make it up as they go along.”

And they are. Given this I expect the first vote to be on the package of amendments tomorrow. If that doesn’t make it (and it may not – stay with me here), the next vote on the HCR bill will be moot. If it makes it, then I would expect the HCR bill to make it although it will probably be very close.

Why do I think the package of amendments might not make it? Well if they vote that down, then they don’t have to be on record with the HCR vote – they (Democrats) can vote “no” on HCR in good conscience. Excuse? Without the package of amendments it was unacceptable.

That’s if it goes in the sequence I think it might tomorrow.

~McQ


The CBO’s math and reality

The just released CBO scoring for the Senate bill and reconciliation package comes in at $940 billion over ten years.

A reminder: the benefits (i.e. spending) don’t begin until 2014. The taxation (revenue collection) begins immediately.

A true number? The CBO says the cost over the first 4 years would be $17 billion. The last 6 would equal $923 billion. So isn’t this a better representation of true cost?

$923/6*10 = $1,538 trillion or over 1.5 trillion dollars if the spending is factored evenly over the 10 years like it will be the following 10 years.

And that doesn’t include the $200 billion yearly “doc fix” which was deliberately taken out of the bill to make it seem like less spending.  Add that to their claimed “net” and see what it gets you.  It’s certainly not $794 over 10 years or any deficit reduction.

Note also the chart in the CBO report how the “net cost” is accomplished:

Taxes and penalties. Penalties on individuals and employers. Taxes on “Cadillac” plans. Question – what happens when those all dry up as revenue streams?  The scoring assumes a constant stream.  I think we all know better than that.  Of course the answer is they must find new revenue streams, i.e. new taxes (or “penalties” as they’re sure to deem them).  Additionally full into the spending curve of the plan, we’re looking at around 200 billion a year.  Over 10 years that 2 trillion dollars.

Again, remember – the CBO’s scoring assumes absolutely no changes in the bill, revenue streams or projected spending over those 10 years.  That’s absolute nonsense on a saltine cracker and we all know that.  There is no way those revenue streams remain constant, there’s no way the spending on health care – if this is enacted – won’t be increased as the bill is built upon and despite the CBO’s guess for the following 10 years in which it says it will continue to “save” money, there’s very little to support that premise.  In fact, the most telling line in the whole CBO report is this one:

Our analysis indicates that H.R. 3590, as passed by the Senate, would reduce federal budget deficits over the ensuing decade relative to those projected under current law—with a total effect during that decade that is in a broad range between one-quarter percent and one-half percent of gross domestic product (GDP).3 The imprecision of that calculation reflects the even greater degree of uncertainty that attends to it, compared with CBO’s 10-year budget estimates.

You can believe all this nonsense if you wish, but even the CBO isn’t real keen on its own calculations.  And by the way, this post isn’t a swipe at the CBO – they score what they get and do it according to the statute under which they operate.  But that doesn’t render the GIGO rule invalid.

In the meantime, the House has just passed the “Slaughter Resolution” which would allow it to “deem and pass” this monstrosity.  All 222 who voted yes were Democrats.  That means Democrats badly want cover on this thing and if they can get it, they’ll let it pass.  The House is scheduled to meet at 1pm on Sunday to do so.

If they pass it through “deem and pass”, we’ll essentially have become a Banana Republic.

~McQ


Health care reform – update

Byron York’s count has it at 209 “no”, 204 “yes”, with 18 undecided.   David Dayden at FDL puts the count at 191 “yes”, 206 “no” (205-209 with leaners), with 17 undecided.

As you can imagine, the pressure on the remaining 17 or 18 is going to be enormous. Bart Stupak claims it has been a “living hell”.

Still nothing out of the CBO which means a Saturday vote is unlikely.

Obama’s interview with Brett Baier of Fox is likely to do nothing to change minds about health care, just as his speech in Ohio had little effect. He may as well have gone to Australia as this is shaping up.  But it is clear he and the Democrats want to avoid any talk about “process” and continue to wave it away as something the American people just aren’t concerned with.  Big mistake.

And although he wouldn’t own up to it in the Baier interview, Obama has told others that the fate of his presidency is on the line with this vote.

All it took for Dennis Kucinich to cave was a 45 minute ride on Airforce One.  The liberal Ohio Democrat has found a way to rationalize his change of mind.

If you don’t think this is having an effect throughout the land, just remind yourself of the Scott Brown race, where Brown ran for liberal lion and chief health care reform advocate Teddy Kennedy’s seat as the “41st vote against health care”.  Then cast your eyes west and note that Barbara Boxer, another Senate liberal is vulnerable as well.

Speaking of California Senators, Dianne Feinstein’s “National Insurance Rate Authority” has been dropped from the reconciliation bill.  Since it has nothing to do with budgetary matters, it can’t be included.  If this monstrosity passes, look for her to attempt to add it at another time as an amendment to some other Senate bill.

And Code Red suspects two new “yes” votes for the bill, from California Democratic Reps Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa have to do with announced water allocations for the water starved Central Valley in the state.  Yesterday the Interior Department moved up the March allocation, something never done in the past.  A “back room deal” for their votes?

One of the things Baier did in his interview is question the health of Medicare.  He got the president to admit that the bill doesn’t fix the structural problems of the program.  More and more medical providers are recognizing that problem and opting out of taking Medicare patients because they claim they can’t afford them.  And if Medicare is in bad shape, Medicaid is in worse shape.  As if to emphasize that point, drug store chain Walgreens has announced that after April 16th, it will no longer take new Medicaid patients.

The point, of course, is this “reform” does nothing to address the structural problems of the two government run systems which are at the core of the health care cost problem in the US.

Last, but not least, the Attorney General of Virginia has announced the state’s intention to sue the federal government if the present health care bill is passed under the “deem and pass” rule.  Virginia has already passed a law declaring it illegal for the federal government to require individuals to purchase health insurance.

~McQ