Critical Condition

NRO’s health-care blog.

Paul Ryan Scores Reid’s CBO Spin


In recent days, Democrats have cited the Congressional Budget Office’s score of Senate majority leader Harry Reid’s health-care bill as proof that the legislation will reduce costs, lower premiums, and, as Reid says, “save lives.”

It’s worth remembering, of course, that the CBO did not give the Reid bill such a ringing endorsement. Instead, it used words like “uncertainty” and “imprecision” in its long-range projection. As Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, tells NRO: “When it comes to CBO scoring, committee staffers are very good at moving the dials to make numbers look far better than they actually are.”

“There are people who spend years here [in Congress] who know how to polish CBO scores,” says Ryan. “At the end of the day, the CBO still says that it can’t guarantee that what’s being done to pay for this legislation would cut deficits. Yet, just like in the health-care bill that passed the House, it’s clear that the spending needed to pay for the legislation would be unsustainable. It would still be a massive new entitlement that would almost undoubtedly lead to massive new deficits.”

“For the Democrats to base their argument for changing the American economy on an inconclusive CBO score is just another example of them distorting the reality,” says Ryan. “They’re using the score as a shell game to forward various talking points. The bigger picture here is that they’re still set on creating a government-run health-care system. It’s not an exercise in fiscal policy or budget numbers for them. It’s about ideology.”

The CBO, however, should not be blamed for Reid’s spin, says Ryan. “They are being fair and honest,” he says. “I have some problems with their assumptions and modeling, but it’s just honest disagreement. They’re scoring what’s in front of them, which has proven to be unreliable in the past as a good metric of what actually will be the reality should such a bill pass.”

And should Reid’s bill pass, it would head to a House-Senate conference. The final meshed product would be “closer in form to the bill that passed the House,” predicts Ryan. “They’ll strip any significant amendments from the Senate,” he says. “They know that if it gets to conference, then they’ll have more political pressure to agree and get it to the president’s desk. In the final hours, the pressure for Democrats would just be unbelievable. Any wavering Democrat would hear about how they could sink the president’s first term or the party. The Senate needs to keep up the debate so the American people have time to digest what’s actually being proposed.”


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