Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said Sunday that she will vote against the latest version of the Senate health care bill if a Congressional Budget Office analysis shows that it either does not reduce health costs or is not deficit neutral.
McCaskill, who spoke on Fox News Sunday, is a key ally of President Barack Obama. It has to slow down the increase of health care costs over time and ... it has to be deficit neutral, McCaskill stated, leaving no apparent room for budging.
McCaskills statement comes on the heels of a similarly Shermanesque stand by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who said he is sticking to his pledge to oppose the Senate bill if it continues to provide what he sees as an avenue toward public funding of abortion. The Senate on Tuesday killed his amendment that would have prevented subsidies for buying insurance to be used for plans that cover abortion.
The threats to oppose the measure from within his own caucus could provide Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) with a growing headache as he seeks to finish the bill by Christmas.
The Senate is awaiting the CBO analysis of the latest version of the bill, which mostly junks a public insurance option in favor of opening up Medicare to those as young as 55 and expanding Medicaid coverage.
But the White House on Sunday signaled it is willing to accept legislation that is not scored as reducing health spending costs.
Asked repeatedly by This Week host George Stephanopoulos whether the legislation must be shown to reduce health spending, White House National Economic Council Director Larry Summers declined to answer directly, suggesting instead that the White House believes that the legislation will ultimately lower health costs.
But as for scoring, he only insisted that the legislation be shown to reduce the deficit.
I'm saying that the president's bill will meet what has been the agreed test CBO assess the bill and concludes that it reduces the budget deficit, Summers said.
Summers also weighed in on unemployment, saying that he expects hiring to begin in the spring but also that he was just repeating the consensus forecast of economists. The unemployment rate might remain high for some time afterward, he said, since more people at the time will begin looking for jobs.
On Fox News Sunday, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) argued that an analysis by the Medicare actuary already shows that the legislation will increase costs. Its a very simple statement, Gregg said. Its going to cost more. He added that the legislation would push people out of private insurance and cut Medicare spending while providing a massive new entitlement.
But McCaskill retorted that the analysis was not done on the bill that is going to end up being considered for final passage.
Also appearing on Fox News Sunday, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) accused the White House of seeking to intimidate Congress into passing climate change with an Environmental Protection Agency endangerment finding that would allow the agency to regulate greenhouse gases.
Since [Obama] knows that no legislation on cap-and-trade is going to pass, hes going to do it with an endangerment finding, Inhofe said.
Inhofe pointed to a threat by an unnamed White House official that using the EPA regulation instead of legislation would result in a command-and-control style regime.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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