A line sneakily inserted into the new House rules package exempts the Congressional Budget Office from doing a standard 10-year cost analysis on a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, thus seeking to conceal the cost to taxpayers of taking away their health insurance.
As House Republicans voted on the new congressional rules package for the 115th Congress, many passages drew controversy, including a provision to unconstitutionally fine legislators for taking video footage on the House floor, and an attempt to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics.
But one passage made it through without attention from the corporate media: A provision that distorts the analysis of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office for political gain.
On page 25 of the final rules package Republicans adopted this year, a subsection instructs the director of the Congressional Budget Office to perform a 10-year cost analysis of each bill reported by the House:
(1) CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE ANALYSIS OF PROPOSALS.—The Director of the Congressional Budget Office shall, to the extent practicable, prepare an estimate of whether a bill or joint resolution reported by a committee (other than the Committee on Appropriations), or amendment thereto or conference report thereon, would cause, relative to current law, a net increase in direct spending in excess of $5,000,000,000 in any of the 4 consecutive 10 fiscal year periods beginning with the first fiscal year that is 10 fiscal years after the current fiscal year.
But on the next page (emphasis added):
(4) LIMITATION.—This subsection shall not apply to any bill or joint resolution, or amendment thereto or conference report thereon—
(A) repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and title I and subtitle B of title II of the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010;
(B) reforming the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010; or
(C) for which the chair of the Committee on the Budget has made an adjustment to the allocations, levels, or limits contained in the most recently adopted concurrent resolution on the budget.
In other words, the new Republican rules package specifically instructs the CBO not to say how much it would cost to repeal Obamacare.
It is worth pointing out that the last time the CBO did a cost analysis of repealing Obamacare, in 2015, they found that it would increase the deficit by $353 billion. That is important, because Republicans are hoping to repeal much of Obamacare using budget reconciliation, which requires any legislation that increases the deficit to expire after 10 years.
House GOP rules package bars CBO from counting spikes in deficit spending spurred by an ACA repeal.
— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) January 5, 2017
This is not the first time that Republicans have changed CBO analysis rules to support their partisan agenda. Two years ago, Republicans started requiring the CBO to "dynamically score" tax cuts to assume they will increase gross domestic product, making them look like they cost less than they actually do.
The CBO is meant to be a nonpartisan agency, using a balanced analysis to judge the cost of any proposed bill. But Republicans are subtly rigging the budget reports to omit inconvenient information. We cannot allow lawmakers to hide their own fiscal recklessness from the public.