CBO Not As Easy As ABC, 1-2-3


As I noted yesterday, Congressional Democrats hoping to pass a health care reform bill seem to be hitting snags with the Congressional Budget Office. Their problem isn't the Senate bill, which is already set, but the language in the reconciliation legislation that would amend the Senate bill: As this helpful piece in the Post explains, reconciliation bills have special budgetary requirements that may be difficult to meet given the Democrats' other goals:

ABC, 1-2-3, CBO?

Because Democrats are using special budget rules, known as reconciliation, to protect the package from a Republican filibuster, the measure must reduce the deficit by at least $2 billion over the next five years and avoid increasing the deficit in any year thereafter. Under normal circumstances, that rule would require the bill simply to contain enough revenue-raising provisions to offset new spending. But, like so much else in the health-care debate, this time it is more complicated.

Instead of being measured against current law, the deficit-reduction potential of the "fixes" package will be measured against the Senate bill, which must be passed by the House before the Senate can approve the fixes. The Senate bill would trim $118 billion from the deficit over the next decade and hundreds of billions of dollars in the following 10 years. For the fixes package to comply with reconciliation rules, it must also promise significant long-term deficit reduction, aides said.

But virtually everything House Democrats want to achieve in their package costs money.

Imagine that! So what are our taxpayer dollars buying here?

For example, Obama and House leaders have promised to increase government subsidies to help lower-income people purchase insurance, to fully close the coverage gap known as the doughnut hole in the Medicare prescription drug program, and to extend to all states the deal cut with Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D), under which the federal government would pay for a proposed expansion of Medicaid.

Meanwhile, House leaders want to dramatically scale back one of the most powerful deficit-reduction tools in the Senate bill: a 40 percent excise tax on high-cost insurance policies. Obama has proposed to delay implementation of the tax until 2018 and to limit the number of policies that would be subject to the tax. 

One of the tricks Democrats are hoping will get them the needed deficit reduction is packaging the reconciliation language with the student loan bill (which according to The Hill "would essentially cut private lenders out of federal student lending program"). That idea is for the the student loan bill's CBO-scored deficit reduction to help offset the costs of the reconciliation provisions. It's not entirely clear at this point how much scored deficit reduction the addition of the student loan overhaul would actually provide—old estimates that said it could result in as much as $50 billion in deficit reduction may be tossed out—but Democrats are clearly looking for any help they can get on this front. Still, as the Post piece notes, it may not be enough:

Those changes are unlikely to match the long-term savings proposed in the Senate bill, aides and lawmakers said, leaving House leaders scrambling to come up with additional sources of cash. Failure to comply with the reconciliation rules would imperil the package in the Senate and could cause big problems in the House, where the votes of many fiscally conservative Democrats hinge on the ability of health-care legislation to rein in soaring budget deficits.

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  1. the votes of many fiscally conservative Democrats hinge on the ability of health-care legislation to rein in soaring budget deficits.

    I keep seeing this. For those of us keeping score at home, how many of these voted “yea” on the House bill? IOW, how many previous supporters now have to be bought, again, because of the spending re-expansion?

    1. Well, I know my Rep. Dan Boren is on record vowing to never vote for this legislative abomination. And according to polls reported last week, OK residents have polled very much against.

      The others, couldn’t say.

  2. I just don’t see how any bill passed by this Congress on this issue can really result in deficit cuts or reduced spending. Not without accounting practices that would be criminal in any other setting.

    1. Aren’t all the accounting practices of Congress criminal in any other setting?

      1. Of course.

  3. Could this thing possibly have worked out any better? Obama meets his Waterloo, congress gets run out of town on a rail and nothing else has been done in Washington to mess with us for nearly a year.

    1. If it dies a horrible death, this bill is indeed the best thing we could have hoped for under the circumstances.

      1. I’m seriously ancy that this thing is gonna pass. There is no such thing as principle among these creatures. The only hope is that they’re more fearful of the polls than they are of pelosi.

  4. Gosh, you’d think something so swell and terrific wouldn’t require so much smoke and many mirrors, sleight-of-hand tricks and accounting mirages, not to mention buying of votes.

    Are they sure this bill isn’t some large pile of monkey shit, waiting to be flung wantonly onto the American public?

    1. Whatever, JW. 23% of the people in American elected Obama for the express purposes of fucking up the health care industry and not as a vote against the 8 years of disaster under Bush, so he obviously has the majority of Americans behind him.


      1. Oh well, at least he shut down Guantanamo.

        1. And pulled out of Iraq. And stopped DEA raids on marijuana dispensaries. And put an end to wiretapping and domestic spying.

          Obama, all anyone wanted you to do was not be Bush. You even got a fucking NOBEL PRIZE to help convince you to do it. You could have been Bill Clinton, but instead you turned into Jimmy Carter.

          1. No, he turned into Bush with a really deep tan.

          2. And he made all of those issues “bi-partisan”. When the Republicans take back over in 2013 and continue those policies they will just say “of course they are reasonable, even Obama continued them”. And the opposition who supported Obama won’t be able to say dick. Obama fucked his civil libertarian supporters in ways I have never seen done.

            1. Thank you for that, John. It really does illustrate the point well.

              That the problem isn’t the people in the offices, it’s the powerful offices themselves. And voting to fill those offices is the very air that inflates them with power.

              So whatever side of the liberty fence you’re standing on, do us all a favor and resist the temptation to vote. It’s a vice, you know. That voting thing.

              It only leads to trouble.

              They hardly ever seem to do what you think they’re going to do anyway. So don’t condone any of it!

              Mandate? No one can blame me because our politicians are too powerful. And once you realize what John said is true, then the only people who really have a right to complain are the people who don’t vote.

              If the Republicans get back into power, they can’t claim a mandate from me. They’ll be just as guilty of governing without my consent as the rest.

              And I won’t have contributed to any of it.

              1. then the only people who really have a right to complain are the people who don’t vote.

                No, they don’t have a right to complain either.

          3. Don’t forget his push to repeal USA Patriot.

    2. Are you implying that monkeys aren’t hilarious? Fuck you.

      1. We’re genetically wired to be amused by monkeys; therefore, anyone who is not amused by monkeys isn’t human. This will be useful to know in the future.

        1. Just as long as people stop training monkeys in the martial arts. Never trust animals with thumbs.

          1. Exactly: I don’t trust you.

            1. Are you implying that monkeys aren’t hilarious? Fuck you.

              Well, only when they’re flinging bodily fluids directly at you or in your vicinity. Those little fuckers really have good spread patterns.

              Of course, the corollary applies: it’s the funniest thing in the world when they fling it at someone else.

            2. Humans are definitely not exempt.

      2. Monkeys are moderately entertaining. Chimps in contrast are hilarious. But only when they are properly dressed in suits.

        1. Well, obviously, it’s not meant to be taken literally; it refers to any performers of primate humor.

        2. What about the “Lancelot Link” hat and trenchcoat look?

          1. Friggin’ brilliant.

  5. It just seems amazing to me that at this point in the economic cycle, they’re still trying to inflict new entitlements on us and make the ones we already have bigger.

    New entitlements? Bigger entitlements? Really?

    I blame everyone who voted in the last election–no matter which way. I hope you’ve learned your lesson.

    …but I doubt it.

    1. What’s funny is that the Democrats could’ve acted all deregulatory, tax cutty, and fiscally conservative to “speed the recovery”, then socked it to us once the recession ended without as much of a fight. But they weren’t willing to wait or be subtle, because they are crushed beneath the weight of the knowledge that the rest of us really don’t want what they want. So they figured they better act quickly to force the shit down our throats.

      1. I think they knew the fuses was lit on the mid-term elections. They knew they could have never held it together that long.

        It’s the logic of a wavering alcoholic guzzling down a 5th of vodka today to avoid the temptation of drinking it tomorrow.

        1. What’s really ridiculous is that the subtle sucker punch would work so well here–we’re trusting fools, as a rule.

          1. Please excuse my subject/verb disagreement. I hate when they fight in public.

        2. Speaking of alcoholics, isn’t it fantastically delicious that Ted Kennedy’s death made this battle so destructive to his party and their hope for his pet project?

        3. Yes. There are 59 Democratic House Reps from districts that voted for McCain. McCain ran a terrible campaign in the worst year for Republicans since 1974, yet those districts still voted for him. I think the liberals knew that they were not going to hold many or any of those seats beyond 2012 at most. So this was there one chance.

          Further, the fact that the bill is so terrible and going to be such a disaster is viewed as a positive. They figure, they can get killed in 2010 and play defense for a while. And then around 2014 when the bill comes due, they will have a new crisis than necessitates one payer.

          Maybe I am paranoid, but I really do think they are that fucking evil.

      2. What’s funny is that the Democrats could’ve acted all deregulatory, tax cutty, and fiscally conservative to “speed the recovery”, then socked it to us once the recession ended without as much of a fight.

        Excellent point. The problem, though, is that they didn’t/don’t believe those solutions would work. They think raising taxes, more regulation, and fiscal irresponsibility is the solution.

        1. Yeah, that’s probably true.

        2. That is probably true and it is really sad.

  6. Gosh, you’d think something so swell and terrific wouldn’t require so much smoke and many mirrors, sleight-of-hand tricks and accounting mirages, not to mention buying of votes.

    It is swell and terrific, and only needs these games to pass because of the evil racist lies of the opposition. Their underhanded tactics only prove how moral they are.

    1. Don’t forget the nefarious operatives of BIG INSURANCE.

      …also those meddling kids.

  7. day by day the bill seems to increasingly conjure ‘Frankenstein’ as its literary metaphor.

  8. As I recall reading in some NRO piece awhile back, another trick the Dems have gamed the CBO on is not including the costs of the insurance mandates in the spending score for the legislation.

    When Clintoncare was being scored by the CBO, the estimated costs to the public of the mandates in that bill were included.

    This time around the Dems did pulled some tricks (I don’t know exactly how) that resulted in those costs being excluded.

  9. This thing will pass. They will find some way, no matter how dirty or hypocritical or dishonest. The CBO scoring is a snag but they’ll find a way around that, as the article suggests. As much as I want this thing to die, I just think it’s inevitable at this point.

  10. Give up, give up, give up!

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  12. I do not know why people get so wrapped up in this budget reduction. Government cannot forecast the way a country will perform and if they do it is a guess in the dark. Convert Youtube to MP3

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