JONATHAN COHN JANUARY 4, 2011
As you've probably heard by now, one of the first orders of business for the new Republican Congress will be debating and then, presumably, passing a bill repealing the Affordable Care Act. The media is playing this as a pointless stunt, because the Senate would never pass it and President Obama would never sign it. This seems unfair to me. Repeal of health care is among the very top priorities for these Republicans. Passing such a bill has important symbolic value.
But precisely because I do take this seriously, I'm curious: Will the Republicans ask the Congressional Budget Office to score the bill? Say what you will about the process that produced the Affordable Care Act, but it was not rushed and it did not try to game the budget accounting process. On the contrary, Democrats went to great pains--and, arguably, suffered tremendous political damage--because they were determined to produce a bill that the CBO would pronounce as deficit-reducing.
They succeeded, too. CBO projections suggest that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the deficit by more than $100 billion over ten years, which is not bad--indeed, not bad at all--for an initiative that will allow 30 million more people to get insurance and push the entire health care system in the direction of more efficiency. It stands to reason that if the Republicans repeal the bill, they will be increasing the deficit by an equivalent amount.
So will Republicans respect the process and wait for a CBO score before considering the bill? I think I know the answer.