Forget The CBO! GOP May Let HHS Score Key Part Of O’care Repeal Bill

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
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A top GOP senator did not rule out that possibility that Republicans would use the Department of Health and Human Services to score a controversial proposal in their revised Obamacare repeal legislation if the Congressional Budget Office was taking too look in its analysis.

“We will see,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the No. 3 Senate Republican,  when ask if Republicans will just depend on the HHS if CBO’s analysis isn’t ready in time. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he’d like to take an initial, procedural vote on the bill next week.

“I hope the CBO can give us at least some preliminary feedback on the Cruz amendment,” Thune said, adding that the HHS will “have a good model for us to look at too.”

That bypassing the CBO was being considered was first reported by Independent Journal Review, and it would be a major departure from congressional norms, if not an outright violation of Senate procedures.

The HHS, under Obamacare-hater Secretary Tom Price, has been vocally advocating for the Senate bill, and releasing misleading reports and materials to promote dismantling the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans have been critical of the CBO — a nonpartisan agency run by Keith Hall, a GOP-picked economist who worked in the George W. Bush administration — since it delivered a score showing previous version of bill showing 22 million fewer people with coverage. Outside health care experts have predicted that the Cruz amendment, which allows insurers to sell unregulated policies if they also sell ACA-compliant ones, could result in even greater coverage losses, since, without massive subsidies, it would prompt premiums to spike for people with pre-existing conditions.

According to IJR, the idea has been tossed around in negotiations, but nothing has been agreed to. Budget Chair Mike Enzi (R-WY) would have to make the call as to whether an HHS analysis counted as a “score” under the rules of reconciliation, the process Republicans are using, a Senate aide told IJR.

TPM attempted to ask Enzi Thursday morning if this was a possibility, but he blew off the question.

“I have to concentrate on what I am going to say in the meeting,” he said, referring to the closed-door huddle for Senate Republicans Thursday where the new legislation was being unveiled.

Neither his spokesperson, nor McConnell’s office returned TPM’s inquiries about the IJR report.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.
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