Healthcare

UPDATE: Democrats Touting ‘Unofficial’ CBO Score

House Democrats are trumpeting a new Congressional Budget Office report saying that the “reconciled” Senate version of the Obama healthcare bill will save $120-$130 billion in the first ten years, and more after that.

The Washington Post and Politico are blaring headlines about these claimed savings.

However, House Budget Committee Ranking Republican Paul Ryan (WI) issued the following statement:

“The Congressional Budget Office has confirmed that there is currently no official cost estimate.  Yet House Democrats are touting to the press – and spinning for partisan gain – numbers that have not been released and are impossible to confirm.  Rep. James Clyburn stated he was “giddy” about these unsubstantiated numbers.  This is the latest outrageous exploitation by the Majority – in this case abusing the confidentiality of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office – to pass their massive health care overhaul at any cost.”

I just asked a highly-placed Senate source about the numbers, and why the Republicans weren’t talking about the bizarre assumptions – savings over time that are assumed but won’t happen, rosy scenarios about cost reductions and tax revenues and the like — that are the only foundation on which CBO could have reached their conclusions.

The short answer is that the Republicans (at least the Senate Republicans) haven’t been allowed to see the report yet. 

Maybe Pelosi deems them to have seen it.

UPDATE: In a letter sent to Speaker Pelosi this morning, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf remarked:

“Although CBO completed a preliminary review of legislative language prior to its release, the agency has not thoroughly examined the reconciliation proposal to verify its consistency with the previous draft. This estimate is therefore preliminary, pending a review of the language of the reconciliation proposal, as well as further review and refinement of the budgetary projections.” (CBO Director Doug Elmendorf, Letter To Rep. Nancy Pelosi, 3/18/10, P.1)

UPDATE (12:30 EDT): The Congressional Budget Office has released the official score. You can read that here.

UPDATE (3:35 EDT):  A week ago Speaker Pelosi said the House Rules Committee could not move on the health care bill until they had a “final number” from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO):

“…we were briefed by the Rules Committee as to the action they need to take to put the reconciliation bill on the table.  And they can’t do that, of course, until we have a final number from the CBO… As I say, our clock starts ticking when we get the final CBO report.  We don’t have the final yet…” (Pelosi Remarks at Press Availability Following Democratic Caucus Meeting,” 3/11/2010)

Today – even though the Speaker doesn’t have the final numbers – the Dems have started the clock rolling toward a Sunday vote on the “Deemed Passed” Slaughter-the-House Rule. 

More from today’s CBO report:

“Although CBO completed a preliminary review of legislative language prior to its release, the agency has not thoroughly examined the reconciliation proposal to verify its consistency with the previous draft. This estimate is therefore preliminary, pending a review of the language of the reconciliation proposal, as well as further review and refinement of the budgetary projections.” (CBO Preliminary Estimate, 3/18/2010)
“CBO has developed a rough outlook for the decade following the 2010-2019 period…”

“The imprecision of that calculation reflects the even greater degree of uncertainty that attends to it, compared with CBO’s 10-year budget estimates.”

“CBO has not extrapolated estimates further into the future because the uncertainties surrounding them are magnified even more.”

“…CBO anticipates that the reconciliation proposal would probably continue to reduce budget deficits relative to those under current law in subsequent decades, assuming that all of its provisions would continue to be fully implemented.” (Congressional Budget Office Preliminary Estimate, 3/18/2010)

The Democratic rejoicing at the CBO “report” is entirely premature.  Pelosi is pushing and browbeating members to vote on the basis of a report which will change – and probably in a major way – when the bill is actually written and scored.

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