Republicans Delay Vote on Boehner’s Debt Plan Following CBO Report
On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office reported that a proposal by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to raise the federal debt ceiling falls $150 billion short of its stated savings, forcing GOP leaders to reschedule a floor vote on the measure from Wednesday to Thursday, the New York Times reports (Steinhauer/Hulse, New York Times, 7/26).
On Monday, Boehner released details of the fiscal year 2012 budget and debt-limit proposal, which would raise the debt ceiling by as much as $2.5 trillion in two stages and require Democrats to accept deep spending cuts. Under the proposal, Congress would have to approve immediate discretionary spending cuts of at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years before the president could raise the debt limit by up to $1 trillion.
The second debt-limit increase of nearly $1.6 trillion would come early next year and would be contingent upon Congress' approval of additional spending cuts of at least $1.8 trillion over a decade. The second stage would be implemented after a new commission -- which would be charged with considering a broad package of spending cuts, program overhauls and potential revenue increases -- makes its recommendations (California Healthline, 7/25).
According to Politico, the House Republican leadership had expected the proposal to generate well over $1 trillion in savings over 10 years. However, CBO's analysis of the plan found that it actually would save $850 billion over that period (Rogers, Politico, 7/26).
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) office immediately announced that the floor vote would be pushed back (Garrett et al., National Journal, 7/26). Boehner in a statement said, "Congressional staff are looking at options to adjust the legislation to meet our pledge" (New York Times, 7/26).
Regardless of any changes, the bill is unlikely to become law. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said several times that "Democrats will not vote for it" and that it is "dead on arrival in the Senate" (Bolton, The Hill, 7/26).
Meanwhile, the White House on Tuesday issued a statement of administration policy warning that President Obama would veto the Boehner proposal (Kasperowicz/Youngman, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 7/26).
Proposed Spending-Reduction Panels Draw Scrutiny, Skepticism
Deficit-reduction plans from Boehner and Reid (S 1323) both would establish bipartisan, bicameral congressional panels that would make recommendations on cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement programs, according to CQ Today. However, the amount of those proposed cuts has prompted a debate and skepticism from observers.
According to CQ Today, liberals argue that the Boehner proposal could significantly "devastate" the health programs. Meanwhile, conservatives contend that the panels would not produce significant cuts to the programs (Kenen, CQ Today, 7/26).
Proposed Medicare Cuts Do Not Address Real Problem, Experts Say
Proposals to reduce the cost of Medicare -- such as raising the eligibility age or increasing copayments -- do not solve the larger problem of escalating health care costs, according to a panel of health and budget experts, National Journal reports.
Alice Rivlin, who served as CBO director during the Clinton administration, said she does not think the Medicare eligibility age proposal is a particularly good idea. "People between 65 and 67 often don't have health insurance, and might be eligible for subsidies under the [health reform law]," she said, adding, "If that's true, it's just a different way of charging it to the government rather than having them on Medicare."
Meanwhile, Patricia Neuman of the Kaiser Family Foundation's Medicare Policy Project said a GOP plan proposed earlier this year to provide Medicare beneficiaries with "premium support" and let them choose their own plan would not work as intended. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who developed the plan, has said that health care costs would be driven down by the increased competition the plan would deliver. However, Neuman said she doubted the plan would "drive the market in the direction we might hope" (McCarthy, National Journal, 7/26).
High Health Costs Key Factor in Fiscal Decisions
Health care costs in the U.S. are among the top concerns that government officials and congressional lawmakers must consider as they attempt to resolve the budget deficit and debt issues, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports. The U.S. currently spends the equivalent of 17.4% of its gross domestic product on health care, which is the highest percentage among developed nations.
CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf recently said, "We as a society will either have to pay more for our government, accept less in government services and benefits, or both," adding, "For many people, none of those choices is appealing -- but they cannot be avoided for very long" (Wiseman, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 7/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.