Capretta: Let the Unravelling ContinueSeptember 23, 2009
In July, House Democratic leaders were insistent that they had the votes to pass a bill with a new, aggressively managed government-run insurance option for the under-65 population, total federal costs approaching $1.5 trillion over a decade, and a new surtax on upper income taxpayers to pay for about one-third of it.
Where is that bill now?
It never came up for a vote, and there’s no plan to bring it up in coming days, even though Congress has now been back for two weeks from its summer recess. What’s the hold up? Well, it turns out the President of the United States — who was telling House members in July that it was critical to pass their bill before the August recess — doesn’t really like the House version after all. In his speech to Congress just after Labor Day, Pres. Obama spelled out several key objectives for a bill that the current House version does not come close to meeting. The president said he wanted a bill that costs no more than $900 billion over a decade (the House bill’s price tag is at least $1 trillion, but it’s really far higher than that when properly assessed); doesn’t increase the deficit by “one dime” over ten years, or ever (the House bill would increase the government’s unfunded liabilities by about $10 trillion over seventy-five years); and is financed with Medicare and Medicaid cuts and a new tax on higher cost insurance plans (the House bill imposes new taxes on higher income households, which the president essentially killed by never mentioning). He also all but said that dropping the government-run insurance option would be fine with him — letting even more air out of that particular, sinking balloon.
So much for the inevitability of the House plan.