Yesterday, I argued that Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) pledge to repeal the health care law undermined his goal of reducing the deficit and slowing government spending. Last night, CNN’s John King asked McConnell about this contradiction and the Senate minority leader conveniently dismissed the notion, claiming that nobody believes that the health care law will save money:
KING: So answer somebody out there, whether they’re a Democrat or an Independent, or maybe even just some Republican who is doing the math, who says, ‘okay, this Republican leadership says they want to reduce the deficit. But if you extend the Bush tax cuts, I understand your policy argument, people can agree or disagree with it, that would, in the short-term at least, maybe if the economy roars back it would change it, but in the short-term that would add to the deficit, somewhere in the ballpark of $700, $800 billion. The Congressional Budget Office says, the Obama health care bill, for all the policy disagreements that you have with it, reduces the deficit by $143 billion over the next ten years or so. Are those inconsistent?
MCCONNELL: Well, the assumptions are all wrong. The fact of the matter is if you raise taxes in the middle of a recession, the government is going to get less revenue, not more….Nobody seriously believes the health care bill is actually going to save money. Nobody believes that. So don’t assume that you’re going to exacerbate the deficit by doing any of those things.
Of course, the Congressional Budget Office does, and as McConnell’s Senate colleague Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has pointed out, “CBO is God around here, because policy lives and dies by CBO’s word.” Grassley is right and McConnell’s dismissive attitude underscores that he is either not serious about repeal and is not concerned about offsetting its costs or is ready to repeal the law without plugging the budget hole it will leave behind.
Either way, his dismissiveness is dishonest. Republicans frequently tout CBO estimates to criticize the health care law or bolster their own proposals (Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) just did so yesterday) and below are a few examples of McConnell doing just that:
- “The independent Congressional Budget Office has said that comprehensive liability reforms would save the taxpayers more than $50 billion.” [McConnell on the floor, 12/09/2009]
- “Businesses that can’t insure workers face stiff fines, resulting in lost wages and jobs, according to the independent Congressional Budget Office.” [McConnell on the floor, 12/09/2009]
- “In the run-up to that vote, they said these cuts weren’t really cuts, and that Medicare Advantage, in particular, isn’t really a part of Medicare — arguments plainly contradicted by the text of the bill itself, by the Department of Health and Human Services, by the independent Congressional Budget Office, and by the experience of seniors themselves.” [McConnell on the floor, 12/04/2009]
- “The proposals over in the House, according to CBO, and not only aren’t paid for, they don’t really dramatically increase the — decrease the number of uninsured.” [McConnell on Meet The Press, 7/19/2009]
During the interview, McConnell refused to guarantee that he would preserve the more popular consumer protections of the bill but instead said that Republicans would target the individual mandate (which would actually jeopardize many of those provisions), the $500 billion cuts in Medicare and the 1099 reporting requirement.