Elmendorf: Health Care Progress May Not Be Possible for Two Weeks

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This is somewhat complicated, and I’ll flesh it out and get you video just as soon as I can. But with Democrats anxious to pass a health care bill, and avoiding delays seen as a high political priority, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) indicated today that there may be major delays in the health care process going forward. During today’s health care hearing, he told CBO chief Doug Elmendorf today that the Senate Finance Committee must be provided with a complete CBO score of the final package before the panel can hold a vote on it.

“With respect to the issue of when scoring might be available, because…it is critically important that we have scoring before a final vote is cast in the committee,” Conrad said, “it is important for us to know, once there is a package, after the amendment process here, can you give us some rough estimate, in days to have a CBO score.”

How long will that scoring take?

Elmendorf estimated that the full reporting could take two weeks:“I think we can update our preliminary analysis…within a few days of the package actually being set. A formal cost estimate would require…two weeks of work by us, once the package is settled.”

Conrad ultimately suggested that the committee could hold its vote on the basis of the preliminary analysis, but that two week window would presumably still apply to progress beyond the committee’s vote. It would, after all, take a similar amount of time to complete a final cost estimate of the package that ultimately comes to the Senate floor.

Finance chairman Max Baucus, as you’ll soon see, was startled by this news, and pushed back, saying the committee would have to figure out a way to move more quickly than that.

“The box we’re in, we pass legislation, we’ve got to cool our heals for up to two to three weeks before we know the final [score]?” Baucus asked incredulously. “That’s unacceptale, clearly…so you’ve got to help us get out of this box.”

How they’ll get out of the box remains unclear.

Late update: Here’s the video.

Late, late update: This post has been modified for greater accuracy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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