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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."

Read More →

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.

Rejected Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork doesn't believe for a second that Sonia Sotomayor is committed to the "fidelity of the law."

"I don't take Sotomayor's protestations that she's entirely governed by law seriously," Bork said in an interview with Newsmax. "I think the statements she's made and the rulings she's made show that she's not governed entirely by law."

He also agreed with the interviewer that her comment about wise Latinas should have immediately disqualified her from the bench.

She has a "preference for some minorities over the majority," he said.

Bork, who was nominated by Ronald Reagan, also lashed out at the way Democrats conduct confirmation hearings.

"It's quite true that the Democrats are willing to engage in furious attacks, often without any basis in fact, and Republicans are not," he said.

"I don't know if that's a Republican virtue or Republican timidity. But I think the Republicans are either going to have to persuade the Democrats to quit that approach to confirmations, or take up the same kind of tactics themselves, which would be too bad."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) released a statement this afternoon reemphasizing his support at the conclusion of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Commitee. The committee today wrapped up four days of questioning of the Supreme Court nominee; currently, both Democratic and Republican witnesses are testifying before the senators.

Read the statement below:

I want to congratulate Chairman Leahy for conducting informative, spirited confirmation hearings and thank both Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Sessions for their commitment to a fair and open process.

Once again, I commend the President for selecting such an accomplished, qualified and experienced jurist to replace Justice Souter on the Supreme Court. Judge Sotomayor has the right combination of legal experience and perspective on the lessons of the real world. She has a unique understanding of the responsibilities of the judicial branch and a respect for both the law and the people to whom the law is applied.

Her performance at this week's hearings has only strengthened my belief that Judge Sotomayor will be a fine Supreme Court Justice. Her grasp of the issues, her experience on the bench and her record of moderate rulings that put the rule of law before everything else were on display this week.

It is particularly encouraging that Judge Sotomayor will be our first Latina Supreme Court Justice - a fact that should be a source of pride, not only for Hispanic Americans, but all Americans.

I look forward to the committee's vote on Judge Sotomayor's nomination and a vote before the full Senate in a timely fashion.

Just a couple weeks ago, the AMA was trying to have it both ways with the public option. The group had long opposed the provision, but in an appearance on CNN, its President J. James Rohack was unable to come right out and say so. Now it seems as if they've gotten over, or at least managed to suppress, their concerns. "On behalf of the Board of Trustees of the American Medical Association, I am writing to express our appreciation and support for H.R. 3200, the 'America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009,'" wrote AMA Vice President Michael Maves in a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel.

This legislation includes a broad range of provisions that are key to effective, comprehensive health system reform. We urge members of the House Education and Labor, Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means Committees to favorably report H.R. 3200 for consideration by the full House.

You can read the full letter here.

Note, this caveat. "The AMA looks forward to further constructive dialogue during the committee mark-up process. We pledge to work with the House committees and leadership to build support for passage of health reform legislation to expand access to high quality, affordable health care for all Americans." 'Building support' would likely entail weakening the bill in some ways, and it seems likely that with respect to certain provisions, the AMA would be just fine with that. But this is nonetheless a pretty major development.

I'm told that the AMA will be releasing a statement shortly, and I'll pass that along when I receive it.

Today, two days after House Democrats unveiled their health care plan, President Obama & Co. continue to push hard for support on the bill.

MSNBC aired Obama's full interview with Nancy Snyderman, aka "Dr. Nancy," at noon ET today. In it, he predictably emphasized "self-responsibility," saying, "The American people have to recognize that there's no such thing as a free lunch." He kept to talking points about mandated individual insurance, taxes and small business, avoiding discussing the political entanglements.

Vice President Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will talk health care at a Middle Class Task Force meeting at 1:30 p.m. ET, specifically about how "health care reform will lower costs, cut waste and improve quality for seniors from across the country," according to the White House.

Obama was also holding meetings with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE).

After the meeting, Snowe told ABC that "We shouldn't be restrained by an artificially compressed timeline."

But just a few minutes ago, in an interview with Andrea Mitchell, she said she hopes they can commit to something before the August recess.

If only it were that cheap. ABC is now picking up on the claim that the House Democrats' health care reform bill will cost a made-up number.

A couple things stand out here. First, the ABC reporters who wrote the piece--Jonathan Karl, Z. Byron Wolf, and Huma Khan--seem to be basing their article a couple Associated Press pieces which peg the legislation at $1.5 trillion...based on the contention of one anonymous Democratic aide. For whatever reason, the AP isn't relying in this instance on the Congressional Budget Office--or other, on the record House Democrats--which prices the bill at about $1 trillion. That's without taking into account revenue-generating measures.

Second, they're using the word "billion" instead of "trillion"--a three-order-of-magnitude difference notwithstanding all the problems with the number "1.5".

That now makes two news organizations--Time, and ABC--along with Newt Gingrich who have taken this AP number and run with it. How far will it go?