Republicans jump on new CBO score to blast health reform bill

A new Congressional Budget Office analysis of the health reform bill showing $115 billion in discretionary spending has quickly been turned into extra ammo for the GOP.

"We can expect the true cost to grow even higher, since CBO noted this new estimate does not include 38 sections of grant programs, which cover 406 pages of legislation," Energy and Commerce Republicans say in a press release. "While the Democrat authors of the law did not specify a funding level for these particular programs, they are certain to further increase spending."

The White House quickly responded to the latest figures from CBO by pointing out that the new estimates would need to be paid for and therefore do not affect the deficit.

The new law "will reduce the deficit by more than $100 billion in the first decade, and that will not change unless Congress acts to change it," Office of Management and Budget Communications Director Kenneth Baer said in a statement. "If these authorizations are funded, they must be offset somewhere else in the discretionary budget. The President has called for a non-security discretionary spending freeze, and he will enforce that with his veto pen.”

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The latest CBO numbers come in a letter to Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), the ranking member on the Appropriations Committee. The new score takes into consideration the cost of implementing the bill - $5 to $10 billion for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and roughly the same for the Internal Revenue Service; it also calculates how much it would cost to fund programs in the bill that are authorized but not paid for: about $105 billion over 10 years.

CBO also points out that it does not have enough information to estimate how much it would cost to fund the dozens of programs that have no price tag but for which the new law authorizes the appropriation of "such sums as may be necessary."

The new score builds upon a previous CBO estimate, released in March, that found that specified authorizations, for spending subject to appropriation, totaled $55.5 billion for 2010-2014. The new score looks at a 10-year window (2010-2019) and is roughly double the earlier estimate; it also examines the cost of extending previously authorized bills as well as the cost of an Indian health care provision.

Updated at 5:29 p.m.

This was cross-posted from Blog Briefing Room.