The critical role the Congressional Budget Office plays in federal lawmaking cannot be overestimated. Both parties know their own economists generate numbers designed to bolster their bosses’ ideology. Meaning they lack much credibility. So Congress established the CBO to be a neutral arbiter of the financial impact of legislation. Both parties, whether in the majority or minority, rely on the integrity of the CBO.
This doesn’t mean they accept reports from the CBO blindly and completely. Especially if the results are at odds with a party’s political needs, there’s harping about the assumptions used and the like. But the fact that both parties cite the CBO’s analysis as fact so often means their analyses have immense credibility – enough credibility to settle disputes and sway votes.
So the CBO’s score (as their analyses are called) concerning health care reform has been long anticipated. President Barack Obama built his health care reform package on the chassis of the legislation passed by the Senate on December 24, 2009. But he wants substantial changes (as do House members before they’ll go along with it). President Obama submitted those changes to the CBO and everyone has been waiting to see what their financial impact would be. How important is the CBO analysis? So important Democratic leaders have withheld the actual text of the changes they want to make to the Senate’s health care reform legislation until they knew whether the CBO would score the bill as costing less than $1 trillion and would be, at worse, deficit neutral.
The wait is over. (Almost. The actual report will be issued later today and I’ll add a link to it from this post. In the meantime word of it’s findings have leaked out). Note: the Congressional Budget Office’s preliminary estimate of the direct spending and revenue effects of President Obama’s health care reform proposal is now available.
As reported by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, the Congressional Budget Office has concluded the health care reform bill proposed by President Obama will cost $940 billion over the first 10 years, reducing the deficit by $130 billion during that time. The impact on the budget is even greater in the next decade: the CBO estimates it will reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion between 2020 and 2029. The President’s proposal is also expected to result in near universal coverage with 95 percent of the eligible population having private or public health care coverage.
All the news outlets are reporting the same figures. While it will be critical to see the qualifiers and methodology used by the CBO to reach these conclusions (which will be available only when the actual report is published later today), Democrats are already celebrating the figures. One reason: as Fox News reports, the CBO analysis makes it far more likely the clean-up legislation necessary to amend the Senate health care reform bill will meet the requirements of the reconciliation process. This means the clean-up bill can side-step the filibuster process and pass with a 51 vote, simple majority in the Senate.
Next up in the health care reform roller coaster ride: the CBO report will be issued today and the House will vote on the Senate health care reform bill and the clean-up legislation on Sunday. Then the clean-up bill heads over to the Senate where Democratic leaders hope to hold a final vote before the end of March.
At least, that’s the plan. And very little concerning this health care reform effort has gone according to plan.