Instead of saving the federal government from fiscal catastrophe, the health reform measures being drafted by congressional Democrats would increase rather than reduce public spending on health care, potentially worsening an already bleak budget outlook, the director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said this morning.
Under questioning by members of the Senate Budget Committee, CBO director Douglas Elmendorf said bills crafted by House leaders and the Senate health committee do not propose "the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount."
"On the contrary," Elmendorf said, "the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health-care costs."
It's amazing how much political power the CBO has garnered, and they have again flexed their muscles. In this case, they have totally repudiated the idea that Obama's health care approach will save money. Instead, the CBO has figured out that Obama's health care approach will only make costs more. Because the CBO's analysis is respected on all sides of the aisle, this analysis will have reverberations throughout the debate.
Next came the news conference put on by Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus.
The only bipartisan effort, being hammered out in the Finance Committee, is still stuck in a rut as members try to come up with about $320 billion in revenue to pay for the massive reforms.Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-MT, who has been working for months on a bipartisan overhaul, was clearly frustrated Thursday, telling reporters, “The President is not helping us,” as Obama opposes one major way of bringing in the money: taxing employer-provided health benefits.
Normally these benefits are excluded from taxation, but Baucus is finding it difficult to continue this exclusion as he searches for revenue. “Is tax exclusion off the table? No,” Baucus said, emphatically bucking the President
Not only did Baucus' statement show a splinter in the Democratic Party, more importantly, Baucas' statement means that taxing health care benefits is OFF the table. This takes away a farily popular option, at least among Senate Democrats, to try and pay for health care reform. This was yet another step toward making health care reform more difficult.
Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi continued to add to her legend of infamy in her news conferences. First, the Speaker asserted that she believed that health care reform could be paid for with savings within the system. This lead to the obvious question. Why were tax increases still in the bill then? Here is how she answered.
But the Speaker made it clear that Democrats still plan to tax the rich, and said if the money isn't needed to pay for health care it would be directed at the nation's budget deficit. "There is going to be a revenue change at the high end. It will be directly to reduce the deficit or to reduce the deficit by helping to cover the cost of this initiative
I can only assume that her call to reduce the deficit was a fig leaf to the Blue Dogs who are skeptical of the bill. I doubt anyone will be swayed. More likely, it appears both bizarre and disingenuous that there are both mysterious "savings" that will be found and that tax increases are still necessary.
The reality of the day was that haymakers were reigned on health care reform. Right now, it's a total mess. The Blue Dogs are NOT on board. Several are threatening to clog it up in committee. Meanwhile, the Senate still hasn't figured out how to pay for it and now an option is off the table. Meanwhile, it's Democrat against Democrat trying to figure it out. Furthermore, Nancy Pelosi needs to stop talking because she embarrasses herself and everything near her everytime she opens her mouth. Health care reform is still a long way away and passing it prior to August appears to be slim at best.
If it isn't passed by August, then at least two sets of jobs' numbers will come out before it is passed. If they continue to show an economy mired in deep recession, that will make passing it that much more difficult. I firmly believe that if we lose 500,000 or more jobs in July that will end his agenda for this year at least. As such, if health care doesn't pass prior to August, those August numbers will take on much more significance.