Politics & Policy

Updating the Price Tag

The CBO should issue a new ten-year score for Obamacare

As Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., California) and the rest of the Democratic leadership attempt to ram the Senate’s Obamacare bill through the House of Representatives, they resemble frantic hospital administrators ordering medical supplies. Unfortunately, they are using last year’s price lists. If and when those goods are delivered, they may be startled to find that their invoices have swelled well beyond expectations.

Last November 18, the Congressional Budget Office scored the Senate’s Obamacare bill at $849 billion for the ten years from 2010 to 2019.

That was November. This is March.

Because a new year has dawned since 2009’s CBO score, Congress really should see a new cost estimate for the next ten-year period — 2011 to 2020 — before it votes again. Consumers check price tags from year to year. So should Congress.

Through either arrogance or perhaps mere oversight, the Democrats who run the House have neglected to present a new score on the Senate bill that they want to adopt as the first step in the reconciliation process that supposedly will correct several of the more egregious glitches and corrupt deals that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) employed to grease his bill through The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body. (A second score on Reid’s “Harrycare” bill is not to be confused with a first score on President Obama’s reconciliation vehicle. The controversial “sidecar” measure, based on Obama’s eleven-page outline, is altogether different and would come into play only if — God forbid — the House adopts the 2,457-page door stopper that the Senate passed last Christmas Eve.)

While there would be little Obamacare spending in the lost year, 2010, the year 2020 would have lots of expenditures, should Obamacare become law and then be fully implemented. If 2020’s spending simply equals 2019’s $130 billion in anticipated outlays, this would seem to push last year’s CBO score from $849 billion to a hefty $979 billion. This is heart-stoppingly close to $1 trillion, and far higher than the “fiscally prudent” $900 billion threshold below which Democrats have tried to keep Obamacare’s official cost.

Pro-Obamacare Democrats most likely will not ask CBO a question whose answer they prefer not to hear. A new CBO score that shows costs shooting through the Capitol Dome will send moderate and otherwise-wavering Democrats diving for cover. Pelosi’s vote-counting arithmetic suddenly will become trigonometry.

So, it falls upon congressional Republicans to call on CBO to issue a new score. Republicans should do this immediately and repeatedly until CBO gets this done.

Whether one believes Obamacare belongs in the U.S. Code or on the ash heap of history, Americans deserve to have members of Congress vote on this momentous measure with a clear understanding of what it costs — not yesterday, but today.

– New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.


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