For the Democrats still supporting the health care overhaul, the blows just keep coming. As if the financial problems I described in a previous post were not enough to deter this fiscal suicide, the Congressional Budget Office has now said that a plan to offset the massive costs by putting an outside panel in charge of budget-cutting for other government health care programs will amount to savings of only about $2 billion over 10 years — practically negligible in comparison to the final price tag, which is already expected to exceed $1 trillion. For those who still consider this legislation financially feasible, that is a discount of 0.2%. Oh boy, I can’t wait to cut out the coupon!
When the Congressional Budget Office announced its cost assessment of the health care bill, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the estimate “wacky” and accused the CBO of omitting the savings he inexplicably expected the plan to reap after full implementation. This new statement from the CBO directly counters that claim and casts even further doubt on both the viability of the bill and the credibility of leading Democrats.
Yet, instead of heeding the advice of their own budget analysts, Democratic lawmakers are still charging forward and losing Blue Dog support in the process. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has already acknowledged that the bill will not come to a vote in the Senate until after the recess. By then, the bill likely will have lost so much support due to increased awareness of what it entails that it will either disappear entirely into obscurity (along with the last of Obama’s invested political capital) or be diluted down into a politically innocuous and much less economically threatening shell of its former self.
The latter is the safer and more probable option for the administration to choose. Its rush to pass this legislation may be related to its desire to have some major policy accomplishment of which it can boast in time for the 2010 midterm elections, the inevitably disastrous effects of which will not materialize until well afterward. Obama has a lot riding on this. Given his rock-star status and his party’s dominance of Congress, Obama will look embarrassingly weak if his prized health care initiative fails to pass. He and the leaders in Congress must quietly cut away much of the spending from the bill or risk halting their already ebbing momentum.
Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who compared the prospect of a defeat for Obama on health care to Napoleon’s career-ending battle at Waterloo, may turn out to have been right on the money. Obama’s victories so far have been enabled by confidence in his personal leadership and still-unfulfilled promises — so if he cannot deliver on the crown jewel of his policy agenda, he will be vulnerable to a catastrophic loss of both the necessary support in Congress and the iconic status that has served him so well until now.