Why didn't we find out about the additional $115 billion in discretionary spending that the Affordable Care Act would require until more than a month after the law's passage? According to FoxNews.co
m, the Congressional Budget Office, which produces legislative price tags, says it's because the office simply didn't have enough time.
Couldn't they have just worked more overtime? Doubtful. The agency keeps vampire hours as it is, working late into the night, and, frequently, into the wee hours of the morning as well. Health care staffers were reportedly working 100-hour weeks during the end stages of the health care debate.
As the health care debate wore on, it was easy to mock fence-straddlers like Olympia Snowe who insisted that what legislators needed to do was spend more time mulling and debating the law (and, in Snowe's case, usually without providing any hint of what she wanted to talk about). After all, it frequently seemed as if, with a year or more to look over the basic shape of the proposal, most of what could have been said had been said. And no doubt many legislators were using the "more time" line as an excuse to see which way other votes would fall—in order to make sure they'd be on the winning side.
Yet with the spate of bad news for reform over the last month, calls for more time now seem sensible and justifiable. Turns out it's not just the broad shape of the proposals (which we knew before the debate even started) that matters, it's the myriad specific legislative details—many of which are hastily crafted and stuffed in at the last minute—that matter too.