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House Minority Leader John Boehner is clearly pleased with CBO Director Doug Elmendorf's testimony before the Senate Budget Committee.



As I noted earlier today, the fact is that the CBO hasn't analyzed many of the bill's cost saving measures, and that, other cost-saving provisions haven't yet been written or otherwise remain unrealized.

But Elmendorf said what he said, and it's no surprise that Boehner's latched on.

Continuing a big push to get a health reform bill, President Obama met today with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) in the Oval Office. The two senators have been described as "crucial swing votes for the health care bill."

From the NYT:

Mr. Nelson is one of several Democrats who have expressed apprehension about the idea of a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers and he has said repeatedly that he does not know if he will support the Democratic health care legislation.




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Sen. Nelson and Obama, courtesy of the White House/Pete Souza



Today was an eventful day for health care reform, with both the White House and outsiders adding to the mix: President Obama continued to give interviews on health care, the American Medical Association endorsed the House Democrats' health care bill, and the CBO chief testified before the Senate Budget Committee today with some less-than-stellar opinions of the same bill.

Read TPM's full health care coverage here.

As I noted in the post below, the Associated Press is standing by the assertion that House health care legislation will cost $1.5 trillion, even though it now says, based on its own analysis, that the same bill will likely cost $1.65 trillion.

This is puzzling on its own, but as Greg Sargent notes, it's also pretty irresponsible.

[T]he AP doesn't address the core problem here: That it keeps portraying its price tag as a matter of fact, rather than as a matter of dispute.... Even if you agree that the bill is likely to cost [$1.5 trillion] in the end, it's still reckless of the AP to keep treating this number as established fact, when it simply isn't any such thing. More on this in a bit.


Right. Something that's been elided here--and I'm guilty of this to some extent--is that Tuesday's CBO analysis isn't conclusive analysis. It's a preliminary analysis based on, in the words of Doug Elmendorf, "the major provisions related to health insurance coverage [and] does not take into account other parts of the proposal that would raise taxes or reduce other spending (particularly in Medicare) in an effort to offset the federal costs of the coverage provisions."

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Former Congressman and C Street resident Chip Pickering's estranged wife has filed a lawsuit against Pickering's alleged mistress. Leisha Pickering is suing Elizabeth Creekmore-Byrd for alienation of affection.

Rep. Pickering, a Republican from Mississippi, allegedly continued seeing his college sweetheart while they were both married. According to the suit, some of the "wrongful conduct" occurred at the C Street facility for Christian congressmen -- the same one where Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) have lived, and where Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) has recently sought counseling.

What's with this place?

The suit alleges Pickering and Creekmore-Byrd are still together. Perhaps they're soul mates?

The complaint, filed Tuesday in Hinds County Circuit Court in Mississippi, is 28 14 pages long, plus evidence, so we'll be posting more if we find anything particularly juicy.

Late Update: The suit says Rep. Pickering and Creekmore-Byrd rekindled their relationship while he was a congressman, before and while living at the C-Street facility. The relationship was "completely unknown" by Leisha Pickering, as it occurred in Washington on weekdays, and the congressman would return home to his wife and five children only on weekends.

Later Update: The suit also alleges Pickering declined Trent Lott's Senate seat and instead quit Congress altogether when his mistress gave him an ultimatum. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour denies he offered Pickering the seat.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) told reporters earlier today that President Obama is "making it difficult" to reach a bipartisan compromise on health care.

"Basically, the president is not helping us," the Finance Committee chairman said. He was referring to Obama's opposition to a tax on some employer-provided benefits.

The White House brushed off the comment when a reporter brought it up to Bill Burton, a White House deputy press secretary.

"Nobody said it was going to be easy," Burton said. "And there are obviously bumps along the way to getting to final passage of legislation in both the House and the Senate. But we think that we've been able to make a lot of progress. And those comments notwithstanding, this week has been a very great week."

In response to an inquiry from TPMDC, Associated Press spokesman Paul Colford sends over the following statement, explaining why they're reporting that House health care legislation will cost $1.5 trillion.

The Congressional Budget Office score of $1.04 trillion that the Democrats cite is the figure for the new health insurance "exchange."

However, that is a net figure, including about $237 billion in revenue raised from employer and individual mandates -- fees paid by those who don't provide or purchase care. Therefore, if you look at costs, the score on that is about $1.27 trillion.

There is also a separate piece of the bill covering Medicare. It includes about $350 billion in new spending (the biggest single piece is for the so-called "doc fix," which involves the payment rate to doctors under Medicare).


And now the AP is out with an article saying similar things, but in more detail--and, crucially, reiterating the $1.5 trillion price tag. In its new piece, AP concludes that the total projected outlays of the new bill will be $1.65 trillion and that total offsets and revenues will amount to $1.3 trillion. Subtract the two and you get a cost to the federal budget of $350 billion--significantly less than the CBO concluded.

This still leaves a lot of questions unanswered, and I've passed them along to AP. First of all, there's the question of whether it's standard practice for the AP to use CBO's bottom line when reporting the cost of legislation, or whether it's normal practice for the AP to disaggregate legislation and report that it costs as much as the bill's total outlays, regardless of offsets and revenues.

Second, and more crucially, did the $1.5 trillion figure come from this sort of analysis, or did it come from the claims of an anonymous Democratic aide? After all, if the AP's using outlays as their metric, then they wouldn't use the $1.5 trillion figure. They'd use $1.65 trillion.

On the merits, we're running the AP's numbers and by budget experts to see if they stack up correctly. The CBO analyzes legislation's impact on the federal budget, and it's fairly standard practice for journalists to characterize the CBO's conclusions as the bill's "cost." But the first AP report came out shortly after the CBO released its analysis, and attributed the $1.5 trillion figure to an anonymous Democratic aide--and that seems like the key issue here.

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) spent almost $280,000 on lawyers in the last quarter as he faces several ethics investigations, according to his campaign financial disclosure.

Rangel has spent a total of $926,000 on attorneys in the past year.

The Ways and Means Committee chairman still raised $405,000 last quarter, much of which came from corporations, labor unions and trade associations.

The House is looking into whether trips Rangel took to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008 violated rules against corporate-funded travel. He's also being investigated for getting a special deal on some Harlem apartments, for not paying taxes on rental income and for using his post as chairman to raise money by preserving a tax break for a major donor to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College.

Earlier today, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, made it pretty clear that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor will not be filibustered.



"I will not support--and I don't think any member of this side will support--a filibuster or any attempt to block a vote on your nomination."

That's even farther than Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) was willing to go yesterday. Obviously other senators will do what they'll do, but it seems that, despite all the flame throwing, if Sessions has his way, Sotomayor will be confirmed before the August recess.

As promised, here's the American Medical Association's official statement: "This legislation includes a broad range of provisions that are key to effective, comprehensive health system reform," said J. James Rohack, M.D., AMA president. "We urge the House committees of jurisdiction to pass the bill for consideration by the full House."

You can read the rest of the statement below the fold, but note that Rohack doesn't just urge passage of the bill out of committees. Or at least he seems to go farther than that. "We support passage of H.R. 3200, and we look forward to additional constructive dialogue as the long process of passing a health reform bill continues."

But he also calls this "an important step, but one of many steps in the process."

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CBO chief Doug Elmendorf testified before the Senate Budget Committee today and spoke words that will invariably come back to haunt Democrats. "In the legislation that has been reported we do not see the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount," Elmendorf told chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND). "On the contrary," he said, "the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health-care costs."

This is true, but it's also more complicated than that. First of all, the CBO has analyzed two bills so far: The Senate HELP Committee's bill and the House's so-called tri-committee bill. But, crucially, the HELP Committee doesn't have jurisdiction over Medicare and Medicaid where many of these savings can--and likely will--be found. And, just as crucially, the CBO hasn't scored those parts of the House bill either.

"The analysis issued today does not take into account other parts of the proposal that would raise taxes or reduce other spending (particularly in Medicare) in an effort to offset the federal costs of the coverage provisions," Elmendorf wrote with regard to the House bill on the CBO's blog two days ago. In fact CBO has only analyzed "the major provisions related to health insurance coverage that are contained in draft legislation." Most of the provisions that would reduce the trajectory of federal health care spending, though, will not be found in the sections of the legislation that pertain to expanding coverage.

But that doesn't mean either the House or the Senate is working on legislation that will maximize the reduction in federal health care spending. As Ezra Klein notes, many of the hypothetical provisions that would work dramatically on that score have been eschewed for political reasons.

Words are words, though. Conservatives are already beginning to use the words of an anonymous Democratic aide against the House's health care reform bill. And they'll likely latch on to this as well.

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