This morning, at a press availability at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) dismissed the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) estimate that repealing the Affordable Care Act would add $230 billion to the deficit over 10 years and would not commit to pursuing universal coverage that prohibits insurers from discriminating against individuals with pre-existing conditions if the measure is ultimately repealed. “I do not believe that repealing the job-killing health care law will increase the deficit,” Boehner said of the score. “CBO is entitled to their opinion, but they’re locked within constrains of the 1974 Budget Act”:
ON THE CBO: CBO can only provide a score based on the assumptions that are given to them. And if you go back and look at the health care bill and the assumption that were given to them, you see all of the double counting that went on, you’ll see the fact that the doc fix wasn’t even part of the bill.
WILL REPLACEMENT INCLUDE CONSUMER PROTECTIONS: We’ll deal with a resolution next week instructing the committees of jurisdiction to decide what those replacements would look like….We’ll let the committees do their work on how we will replace this…we’ll see what they come back with.
Boehner’s argument does not hold up on close scrutiny, particularly if you look at the actual meat of his criticism. He’s arguing that the Democrats artificially lowered the cost of reform by purposely excluding certain provisions — in this case the doc fix — that were part of an earlier draft of the bill or somehow manipulating the 10-year budget window. But the first charge is a marker of fiscal responsibility, not access: Democrats built their bill to ensure that it lowered the deficit and kept out pieces that it could not pay for. Consequently, the CBO found that the measure reduced the deficit by $143 billion over 10 years and — partly because the cost controls don’t kick in until late in that budget window — estimates that it “will reduce federal deficits during the decade beyond the 10-year budget window relative to those projected under current law—with a total effect in a broad range around one-half percent of GDP.”
But it’s not that Boehner has a problem with the CBO. He has a problem with this particular score because it would force him to admit that he’s kicking off his speakership by passing legislation that would explode the deficit. Recall that he praised the agency as a “nonpartisan Congressional score-keeper” when it served his political ends:
- “When it comes to reforming health care, controlling skyrocketing costs is the American peoples’ top priority. Now CBO has confirmed that the Republican plan will lower health care costs for American families, and that’s good news for everyone struggling in today’s economy. The choice now could not be clearer: Speaker Pelosi’s plan raises costs. Our plan lowers them.” [Boehner, 11/04/2009]
- “Democrats’ opposition to lawsuit abuse reform continues even now, after the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that these proposals, if implemented, would achieve significant savings for taxpayers.” [Boehner, 10/13/2009]
- “The Obama administration’s own scorekeeper at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says overall health spending will go up by more than $200 billion under the Democrats’ bill. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) also says federal health spending will rise.” [Bohener/McConnell op-ed, 3/16/2010]
At the presser, Boehner dismissed questions about why Republicans refused to allow Democrats to offer amendments to the repeal provision that would retain some of the more popular consumer protections, saying, “I promised a more open process. I didn’t promise that every single bill was going to be an open bill.” He also made no commitment to adding the protections to the Republican replacement legislation or prioritizing reform in the new Congress.