Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More Complicated by the Minute [UPDATED]
The good news on health care reform: Kucinich is now a yes. He made a pretty strong statement explaining his change of heart - powerful stuff that could turn him into something of a hero on the Democratic side. Maybe he's the smartest member of Congress, after all. Meetings with the President had an impact:
"I left [our previous meeting] with a real sense of compassion for our president and what he's going through," Kucinich said. "We have to be compassionate towards those who are called upon to make decisions for this nation. It's not an easy burden that he has taken up."

"One of the things that has bothered me," Kucinich added, "has been the attempt to delegitimatize his presidency. That hurts the nation when that happens. He was elected...this is a defining moment for whether or not we'll have any opportunity to move off square one on the issue of health care.... I think it's important that--we have to be very careful that the potential of President Obama's presidency not be destroyed by this debate."
The bad news: to pass under reconciliation rules, apparently the fixes to the Senate bill have to offer some kind of budgetary improvement. In other words, it's not enough that the legislation *impact* the budget, it has to reduce the deficit. So doesn't the health care reform package reduce the projected deficit? Yes! And by quite a bit. But these fixes to the Senate bill are a different story and have to reduce the deficit not as projected from where we stand today, but relative to the adjoining legislation. Under reconciliation rules of the current Senate, these sidecar provisions have to make the Senate bill *even better* for the deficit. That's a challenge, because most of the substantive fixes sought by the House will increase costs: better subsidies, delaying implementation of excise tax, etc.

So, everybody is waiting on CBO to score these fixes so Pelosi can get to the business of scheduling a vote so this can all come down this weekend. But they may be scrambling to still find ways to get the right budget number. That's why we still don't have an exact bill to know precisely what everyone's voting on. The basic structure is there, of course; but these details are important toward the process Republicans have forced us to take.

Stay tuned.

[UPDATE: CBO score is out, and it sounds good. With proposed changes, the bill reduces the deficit by $130 billion over the first 10 years and $1.3 trillion over the next 10. You can read the actual report here; Ezra Klein's giddy look at the big picture of the bill now here.]

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