Blair House Summit: No CBO Estimate on Obamacare

by Benjamin Domenech on 5:22 pm February 22, 2010


Doug Elmendorf of the Congressional Budget Office reports that the CBO did not receive President Obama’s plan in advance, and still doesn’t have the actual legislative language. He writes:

We had not previously received the proposal, and we have just begun the process of reviewing it—a process that will take some time, given the complexity of the issues involved. Although the proposal reflects many elements that were included in the health care bills passed by the House and the Senate last year, it modifies many of those elements and also includes new ones. Moreover, preparing a cost estimate requires very detailed specifications of numerous provisions, and the materials that were released this morning do not provide sufficient detail on all of the provisions. Therefore, CBO cannot provide a cost estimate for the proposal without additional detail, and, even if such detail were provided, analyzing the proposal would be a time-consuming process that could not be completed this week.

But of course he can’t — because the White House didn’t want him to.

A CBO score would reveal many of the things about this bill that the White House doesn’t want to have to deal with: the fact that it won’t lower premiums, that it will cost a great deal of money, and that at the end of the day, little is likely to change because of it. But dealing with that situation would muck with the theatrical presentation of the Blair House summit on Thursday, emphasize the $136 billion in new taxes on people the president promised repeatedly he would not tax, and just generally give Republicans plenty of ammo.

The fact that the White House didn’t run this plan by CBO first is just the latest sign that this is all about the game, not actually passing policies. The White House staff knows that even Nancy Pelosi is questioning whether the math works out on reconciliation, and that’s not a good sign:

Pelosi believes passing the bill is “possibly doable,” the senior White House official said. “But she may ultimately decide the math is impossible.”

And if it isn’t? Well, it was never about what passed — it was about winning. At this point, Obama is just trying to drive Republicans’ negatives lower to offset his own diminishing approval rating. “Hey, you may hate my plan, but theirs are even worse.”

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