Grassley Slams Finance Bill Despite CBO Score

Posted October 7, 2009 at 8:27pm

Senate Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Wednesday evening released a statement slamming the amended Finance health care reform bill, saying the legislation should be judged on more than simply whether it is deficit-neutral.Grassley’s comments came on the heels of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office giving the Finance health care package a deficit-neutral cost estimate of $829 billion over the first 10 years of the bill, an assessment considered by Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to be a major achievement.Grassley spent months in discussions with Baucus as part of a bipartisan group of six negotiators and was responsible for drafting much of the committee’s health care package, although he declined to support it in the end because of key differences. These latest comments appear to put to rest any chance of Grassley supporting the bill when it comes up for a final committee vote.Achieving a score of less than $1 trillion, while also reducing government spending on health care over the long term, was a major goal for Baucus. The CBO said Wednesday that Baucus’ package would do that. But Grassley said other policy factors are just as important, and that Baucus’ bill doesn’t pass the test.Grassley’s complete statement reads as follows:”I worry that some of my colleagues will focus only on the deficit-neutral piece of CBO’s document. A celebration of the deficit effects masks who pays the bills. This package includes hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxes and fees. Most Americans with health insurance will see their premiums increase. That’s according to CBO and [the Joint Committee on Taxation], the non-partisan experts. Premiums would increase as early as 2010, before most of the health reforms, including tax credits to help people pay for health insurance, take effect. Uninsured individuals would pay a tax for not obtaining government-approved health insurance. Employers who already offer health insurance would face a penalty if their workers choose subsidy-eligible insurance. With all of this, the bill spends nearly a $1 trillion and still leaves 25 million people without health insurance. That’s not much bang for the buck. When people have been laid off or are worried about getting laid off, the idea of new taxes on employers and individuals should concern all of us. I’d like to see Congress insure more Americans with less stress on the weakest economy, including family finances, in decades.”