- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 6, 2011

Congress’s official scorekeeper said Thursday that the House Republicans’ first major bill — repealing last year’s health care law — would actually increase deficits by about $145 billion over the next eight years.

In a letter to newly-minted House Speaker John A. Boehner, the Congressional Budget Office said a preliminary estimate shows that Democrats’ massive health care overhaul’s cost-cutting measures would have reduced federal spending overall, which means “repealing that legislation would increase budget deficits” from 2012 through 2019.

During last year’s campaign, Republicans promised both lower deficits and a repeal of the health care bill, but CBO’s analysis shows those goals will conflict.

Republicans had expected the bad news. They wrote a specific exemption into their new House rules that allows for the chamber to move ahead on repeal even though it deepens the deficit. They plan to bring the repeal bill to the floor on Friday and hold a vote on it next week.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, earlier this week challenged CBO’s scoring methods, saying that Democrats used gimmicks in the law to make it look like it cuts costs.

“CBO did the job it was asked to do by then the Democrat majority. And it was really comparing apples to oranges, because it talked about 10 years’ worth of tax hikes and 6 years’ worth of benefits,” he said. “Everyone knows, beyond the 10-year window, this bill has the potential to bankrupt the federal government as well as the states. So that speaks to the budget implications of that.”

But CBO officials, in the letter, challenged that argument, saying the health care law will reduce deficits over the longer term as well. That means repeal would increase the deficit in the long-term, too.

Senate Democrats have already said they’ll block the House repeal bill.

The health care repeal effort also puts Republicans in violation of their campaign promise to allow more chances for lawmakers to have a say on big legislation, both in committee and through amendments on the House floor.

The repeal bill is not going through the regular committee process and no amendments will be allowed.

Republicans have said this is a special instance, and that the health care debate has already been waged publicly for the last two years. They promise that lawmakers will be allowed to have a say in the next step, or what they are calling the “replace” phase, when they will try to produce their own plan to overhaul the nation’s health care system.

“We need to wipe the slate clean and move quickly into an open and transparent process to produce real solutions to the health care challenges we face. We welcome the ideas of both Republicans and Democrats as this process moves forward,” said Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, California Republican.

He has prepared a resolution instructing House committees to get to work on a replacement bill that will include tort reform and cost controls while trying to match some of the popular parts of the Democrats’ law.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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