Lead-foot liberals try to outrun the congressional budget police.
By JAMES TARANTO
THE BEST OF THE WEB TODAY
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL ONLINE
19 Friday March 10
The white-knuckle chase that is ObamaCare is hurtling toward a conclusion Sunday, and if President Obama has his way, it will end tragically, for the country and for his party. It's still possible that enough congressional Democrats will have the presence of mind to slam on the brakes. Those who are wavering should read a frightening Politico.com article titled "CBO Crumbles Under Health Workload."
The CBO is the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan agency that evaluates the financial impact of proposed legislation. That is to say, the CBO has nothing to say about the political or medical consequences of ObamaCare. Its work is meant to provide reassurance--or warning--about how Congress's actions will affect the health of America's fisc.
The Democrats' push to get health care reform passed through Congress is putting incredible strain on staff in the Congressional Budget Office--a stressor that may have contributed to the recent incorrect scoring of a draft House provision.
CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf told House Appropriations Legislative subcommittee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) that his staff has been working "100-hour weeks" and cannot keep up with the budgetary and economic impact queries lawmakers have about health care.
"Analysis of competing health care proposals absorbed a huge share of the agency's resources, and CBO analysts in that area have worked flat out for more than a year," Elmendorf said today. ". . . Considerable congressional interest in analysis of health care issues is likely to persist and . . . the almost round-the-clock schedule maintained this past year by CBO's current staff cannot be maintained much longer."
Wasserman Schultz told Elmendorf she was concerned about one recent CBO report that included what an aide to the congresswoman called "significant" errors that had to be corrected. Neither Wasserman Schultz nor her aides would say where the error occurred. Then, this exchange:
"Can we be sure in the future that's not going to happen again?" Wasserman Schultz asked Elmendorf, noting that factual errors are a "big concern. This was a dramatic change. . . . That, to me, should be avoided at all costs."
"I wish I could guarantee that," Elmendorf said.
Think of the CBO as the police enforcing the rules of the road. The Democrats are driving so fast and so recklessly that the cops can't keep up with them. And this makes the legislative highway a dangerous place in more ways than one. Not only do you take your life into your hands when you hit the road, but the police don't have the resources to deal with serious crime.
Are the Democrats heedless of the danger, or are they acting according to design? Either way, the people they are supposed to represent stand to pay a high price, and not only in fiscal terms.
Jim Clyburn Explains It All Then again, if the CBO can't do its job, the Democrats who are leading this effort can certainly try. Blogger Tom Elia notes that in an interview on MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown," Jim Clyburn--the No. 3 House Democrat, behind Steny Pelosi and Nancy Hoyer--explained exactly how ObamaCare is going to save the taxpayer money. Elia has the video, and the exchange starts at 1:30, but we thought it worth transcribing:
Chuck Todd: Can you explain how you get a trillion dollars in deficit reduction? I mean, the CBO didn't make it very clear. Do you feel like you understand how it is this bill somehow reduces the deficit by a trillion dollars in those out years?
Clyburn: I think I do. What we are squeezing out of this system--remember, Medicare is a big part of this. We're extending the life of Medicare by nine years, and if you're taking the waste, fraud and abuse out of this, the savings that you get there will come as things grow. Savings will grow. You look at the community health centers. Savings will grow more in out years than in the first few years. So I believe--well, that's my assessment, and that's the way I'm explaining it to members. I hope I'm right.
Savannah Guthrie: But Congressman, you know, speaking of actually the first 10 years, I think when ordinary Americans look at this and they hear this is a bill that will cost $940 billion but will reduce the deficit $138 billion, they don't understand how those two things go together. Can you just explain how you have to spend almost a trillion dollars to save $138 billion?
Clyburn: Well, because--sure. If you look at, as I said, the kind of savings that you build into the system, what it will save the federal government when you get people into these private insurance plans--the cost-shifting, all of that, out of the system. So if you got 32 million people coming onto insurance plans, that's 32 million people coming out of emergency rooms; that's 32 billion [sic] people that you don't have to pay for in all the cost-shifting that takes place in the system. When my wife had bypass surgery, I looked on her bill. We paid $15 for one aspirin. Then that takes all of that out of the system, and that's how you get that kind of savings, when you multiply that by the number of people that are getting primary care out of emergency rooms, you won't be doing that. That's the kind of stuff.
Heck, who needs the CBO? It's all so clear now!
Sensitive Senators Our lead item on Wednesday prompted this response from Erika Masonhall, press secretary to Sen. Joe Lieberman:
I write to correct an implication you make. You write:
"And most everyone is squeamish about the special deals struck to win the votes of senators like Nebraska's Ben Nelson, Louisiana's Mary Landrieu, Florida's Bill Nelson and Connecticut's Joe Lieberman. Principled moderates all, they steadfastly refused to vote for legislation they didn't believe in unless the price was right."
I assume you are alluding to the money allocated for the construction of a university hospital in Connecticut--however, that item was requested by Senator Dodd, not Senator Lieberman. More information on the request is available here.
Senator Lieberman's position was not based on "special deals" or "unless the price is right," but rather on working toward legislation that would expand access to the millions who do not have coverage, improve quality, and lower costs while not impeding our economic recovery or increasing the debt.
We would appreciate a correction. Please let me know if you need any other information.
We're happy to set the record straight, and to note that the price Lieberman exacted for his vote was the removal of some particularly bad aspects of ObamaCare, notably the so-called public option, which would put the government directly into the insurance business.
That said, Lieberman still struck a sucker deal at the expense of the American people. Like every senator who voted in favor of pushing ObamaCare forward, Lieberman cast the deciding vote. He had the power to put a halt to the entire monstrosity. He traded it away when there was no need to compromise. Lieberman, whose party ditched him in the 2006 Senate primary, styles himself an independent Democrat. He'd have done the country a service had he shown more independence.
Accountability Journalism Oh joy, another Obama health care speech. But Julie Pace of the Associated Press really does seem to find joy in it. From her Fairfax, Va., dispatch:
Obama delivered an energetic, 25-minute closing argument for the goal to which he has devoted much of his presidency and on which its future could pivot, at least for a time. Before an amped-up, campaign-style rally of several thousand at George Mason University in suburban Virginia, the president summoned both pragmatism and principle to sway the undecideds to his side.
Way to summon both pragmatism and principle, Mr. President! Give me an O! Give me a B! Give me an A! Give me an M! Give me another A!
What's it all spell? Accountability!