Dems frustrated with healthcare critics

Democratic leaders are growing frustrated with Senate Republicans and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for clouding prospects for timely passage of the healthcare overhaul by way of their critiques.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blasted Republicans Thursday for offering 400 amendments to the bill pending in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

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“I’m sorry that they have only subscribed to more of the same stalling strategy that the American people are tired, tired of,” said Reid.

“Many of the amendments would simply give greedy insurance companies the ability to deny coverage whenever they feel like it.

“Each of the 400 amendments say something different but … they are designed for no other reason than to slow the process to a halt.”

Democratic leaders have also grumbled about the CBO, which released an analysis Monday that may result in Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) delaying action on his panel. CBO has reportedly scored the Finance Committee’s proposals at $1.6 trillion, forcing Baucus to chop the package by $600 billion.

Aides to Baucus have voiced their frustration over CBO in meetings with other Democrats.

And on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) scolded CBO for refusing to recognize the federal savings that will result from the party's healthcare reform proposals.

“You name any positive investment that we make that we know reduces cost, brings money to the Treasury — in the case of education — but is never scored positively by the CBO. Yes, it’s frustrating,” Pelosi said Thursday.

Growing frustrations with CBO have spurred some Democrats to consider shelving cost estimates from the agency and using projections from another source, such as the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which is part of the Obama administration.

“CBO will always give you the worst-case scenario of an initiative and never a best-case — any credit for anything that happens if you have early intervention in healthcare, if you have prevention, if you have wellness, if you have inoculation of children,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi declined to say whether Democrats should use alternative cost estimates for healthcare reform.

Peter Orszag, the director of Office of Management and Budget, however, has downplayed the possibility of using projections from his agency instead of CBO.

“CBO scoring is going to be used in this process,” Orszag said late Wednesday.