GOP won't count cost of repeal
1/4/11 4:27 AM
House Republicans plan to use a special exception in their budget rules to repeal the Democrats’ health care overhaul without paying for it – technically, at least.
The Congressional Budget Office said last year that the health care reform law and its accompanying reconciliation law would reduce the deficit by $143 billion through 2019. That figure is widely disputed and Republicans argue the law would actually increase the deficit.
Still, since Republicans’ new rules to govern the House require that nearly all proposed legislation is fully paid for, the new House leaders have exempted repeal of the health care overhaul from such requirements.
The move makes it easier for them to repeal the health care overhaul, a key GOP campaign promise.
Democrats are crying foul, charging Republicans with hypocrisy for proposing legislation that adds to the deficit, at least according to how the CBO is likely to score it.
Vince Morris, a spokesman for outgoing Rules Committee Chairman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), said the provision, “allows Republicans to pretend that their campaign promise to repeal the health care bill will have no cost – their resolution simply instructs the House to ignore the trillion dollar increase in the deficit that will result.”
Republicans counter that the legislation would, in fact, add to the deficit, contrary to the CBO numbers. They say they don’t have to pay to repeal a law that would cost taxpayers money. Numerous polls show that the public largely agrees with them—highlighting the wide gulf between how the proposal plays in Washington and in the rest of the country.
“No one believes that the job-killing healthcare law will lower costs, because it won’t,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for incoming House Speaker John Boehner. “That’s why we’ve pledged to repeal it, and replace it with common-sense reforms that will actually work.”
The repeal vote is scheduled for Jan. 12. While the proposal is likely to easily get through the House, Democrats have promised to block it in the Senate.
The budget rules allow for the special exceptions until a new budget resolution is enacted, which gives Republicans a framework to account for the cost of the health care law differently, a Republican House aide said.
Republicans have long charged that Democrats gamed the CBO when they wrote the health care reform law, front-loading the legislation with provisions that raise money and back-loading it with expenses.
Incoming Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has said the legislation, “is full of gimmicks that more than erase the false claim of deficit reduction,” citing $52 billion in double-counted Social Security payroll revenues and revenue collected to cover the so-called CLASS act in the reform law.
About $124 billion of the $143 billion in expected deficit savings was attributed to health provisions and $19 billion to education policy changes in the reconciliation bill that accompanied the health care bill. CBO director Doug Elmendorf hedged his estimate with a caveat that the law includes several policies that “might be difficult to sustain over a long period of time.”
Democrats cited the CBO analysis in their argument that the health care reform law would save the country money.
But by August, several of the advocacy groups that support reform gave up the tactic, admitting that it didn’t catch on with the public. An August conference call led by the Herndon Alliance and Families USA cited a PowerPoint presentation that specifically advised reform supporters not to say that the law will reduce costs and deficit.
The groups cited polling that suggested the public didn’t believe the argument. An October poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that 44 percent of the public had unfavorable opinions of the law. When asked why, cost was cited as the top complaint.