Just before the Congressional Budget Office published its final analysis of the Senate Finance Committee’s health-care bill, a senior Senate Republican staffer gave us a quick primer on the GOP’s strategy in addressing the report.
“Even if the CBO report says that the bill is ‘deficit neutral,’ that is still the status quo,” says the aide. “Let me put it this way: If you have a daughter in college, and you raid the college fund to buy a new Porsche, the net cost doesn’t change. But that’s still no good, since that was cash you were supposed to use in the future. You end up with a new car and no debt, but your daughter doesn’t get to go to college. Deficit neutral sounds pretty, but it’s always been code for the status quo. There is an expense for the status quo — a trillion dollars gone that now can’t be used for something else.”
Any Democratic response to the CBO report will be “tricky,” says the aide, especially since the Baucus bill is still not defined in legislative language. “Democrats will have to find a way to thread the needle between their promises, the president’s promises, and the reality. The president, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid have said that they wouldn’t add a penny to the deficit. Still, not one poll shows the people believing that. Costs will go up and people aren’t buying the Democrats’ claims.”
“This bill is still the worst of all worlds and the CBO’s report is preliminary,” the aide concludes.