Newt Gingrich wants to swing into Washington like a wrecking ball and demolish the key barriers between the GOP and the end of universal health care. But his primary target isn't Obamacare itself. Rather it's a non-partisan agency most people outside the beltway have never heard of -- but that the D.C. establishment would arise and take arms to protect.
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"If you are serious about real health reform, you must abolish the Congressional Budget Office because it lies," Gingrich said at a Saturday debate with embattled pizza entrepreneur Herman Cain. "Every hospital will tell you that if you get the family and patient involved, it is better and less expensive. The Congressional Budget Office refuses to see this as a savings. It wants more bureaucracy and less patient involvement."
In a technical sense, Gingrich is correct. The Congressional Budget Office will make it hard for Republicans to completely repeal Obamacare, even if they unify control of government in 2013. CBO is the agency that evaluates for lawmakers the impact their legislation is expected to have on the federal budget. And unfortunately for Republicans, the health care law was devised to score as a deficit reducer, particularly after its first 10 years of existence. By direct corollary, the CBO says repealing the whole thing would increase projected deficits. For political and (more importantly) procedural reasons, that would make a complete repeal almost impossible.
Some Republicans want to change the rules that make CBO's words so powerful. Gingrich, by contrast, wants to get rid of CBO altogether. In response, former CBO heads are leaping to its defense -- including a key conservative economist, influential among Republicans.