Obamacare and the CBO — no longer ‘giddy’
How critical to the passage of Obamacare was the 2010 “score” given the legislation by the Congressional Budget Office?
Recall the President’s signature legislation barely passed, and squeaked by along party lines — without a single Republican vote. Before the vote, congressional Democrats waited for the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to “score” the legislation. How much, per the CBO, will Obamacare cost? Will Obamacare, as President Barack Obama promised, truly reduce the deficit, the gap between what the government takes in and what it spends?
After all, in December, 2009 — months before the legislation’s passage — Obama assured us, “I made clear from day one that I would not sign a health insurance reform bill if it raised the deficit by one dime — and neither the House, nor the Senate bill does.” Nervous “conservative Democrats” vowed, as did Obama, to oppose any expansion of health care coverage if it added to the deficit, which, in turn, would add to the national debt, then at $11.9 trillion.
Thus, some on-the-fence Democrats told constituents that their vote depended upon the crucial CBO “score.”
Well, not to worry, in 2010 the CBO delivered the very good news Democrats hoped for. In the first 10 years, Obamacare, according to the CBO, more than delivers on its promises. The Hill, on March 19, 2010 wrote: “Democrats hailed a Congressional Budget Office scoreThursday that said their healthcare bill would trim the deficit by $138 billion.” The news, according to the CBO, gets even better in the second decade. The Hill said, “It will reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion in the second decade of the plan’s implementation.”
The cheers were heard across the aisle, over the Potomac and ’round the world.
Then-House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., said, “We’re absolutely giddy over the great news we have gotten from CBO.” Then-House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said: “We think the numbers are now pretty well set from CBO. We think it will post the largest deficit reduction of any bill that we’ve adopted in the Congress since 1993.” Obama said, “That makes this the most significant effort to reduce the deficit since the Balanced Budget Act of the 1990s.”
Because of the CBO’s “great news,” several Democrats either got off the fence or switched on Obamacare from a “no” vote to a “yes.” Rep. Mark Schauer, D-Mich., for example, said: “I needed to see the bill and the Congressional Budget Office score. The bill fundamentally does what I hoped it would.” Another House Democrat relieved by the CBO score was Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., who said: “I have consistently said I would not support any version of health care reform unless it brings down rising health care costs, improves access to affordable care and does it all without adding one nickel to the national deficit. I’ve now been presented with a bill that does all three.”
But four years later, the CBO now says it can no longer stand by its 2010 projections. Roll Call, the publication that covers Congress, writes: “In its latest report on the law, the Congressional Budget Office said it is no longer possible to assess the overall fiscal impact of the law. That conclusion came as a surprise to some fiscal experts in Washington and is drawing concern. And without a clear picture of the law’s overall financing, it could make it politically easier to continue delaying pieces of it, including revenue raisers, because any resulting cost increases might be hidden.”
Again, how important was the 2010 CBO “score,” delivered on the eve of the Obamacare vote? Vital. Critical. Indispensible. Roll Call reminds us, “For Democratic lawmakers who were hesitant to sign onto the sweeping 2010 healthcare law, one of the most powerful selling points (emphasis added) was that the Affordable Care Act would actually reduce the federal budget deficit, despite the additional costs of extending health insurance coverage to the uninsured.”
To the pile of broken Obamacare promises, we now add another. It is not true if you like you doctor you can keep your doctor. It is not true that if you like your plan you can keep your plan. It will not save the average household $2,500. It will not bend the cost curve down. And now we know that Obamacare cannot promise, as advertised, to shrink the deficit.So about Obamacare, Rep. Clyburn can now stop feeling “giddy.” Most Americans never were.
Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host.