March 18, 2010
By Julie Barnes*
This is the week of the "up or down vote" on a comprehensive healthcare reform bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Democratic leadership has been eagerly awaiting a "good score" from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO)—meaning that CBO certifies that it will reduce the deficit over the next two decades. With a good CBO score, the more moderate members of the Democratic Party may be persuaded to vote for the bill.
Today the CBO completed a preliminary estimate of the "spending and revenue effects of an amendment in the nature of a substitute to
H.R. 4872," otherwise known as the Reconciliation Act of 2010. This estimate is considered preliminary because CBO must review the language of the reconciliation proposal and further refine their budgetary projections.
The score is based on the Senate-passed version and several additional provisions that are White House-driven compromises between the Senate and House bills. The additional provisions are being promulgated through the budget reconciliation process to avoid a filibuster under the U.S. Senate rules of procedure. In its letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), CBO states that enacting both H.R. 3590, the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" as passed by the U.S. Senate on Christmas Eve (see CBO's score of this bill) and the House's reconciliation proposal would cost $940 billion over ten years, and produce a net reduction in federal deficits of $138 billion over ten years and $1.2 trillion in the second ten years. These scores seem to bode well for efforts by House Democratic leaders to gather enough "yea" votes to feel confident holding a floor vote on the bill, likely to take place this weekend.
In April 2009, the House passed the 2010 Budget Resolution which instructed the House to pass a reconciliation bill with healthcare reform and education reforms in one package this year. Accordingly, the reconciliation bill will not only include comprehensive healthcare reform, but also provisions that will eliminate the role of private lenders in college loans. If this reconciliation bill passes, students will receive their loans directly from the U.S. Department of Education starting July 1, 2010. The education reform legislation means substantial savings to the federal government, which is expected to help convince fiscally conservative Democrats to vote for the reconciliation package who may otherwise have been reticent to vote for the healthcare reform bill.
*We would like to thank Julie Barnes, Esquire (New America Foundation, Washington, DC), for providing this email alert.