The following is cross-posted at www.fiscalaccountability.org:
A few days ago, all Senate Republicans sent a letter to Democratic Leader Harry Reid asking that he swiftly post the merged healthcare bill. No response. Until yesterday. Sen. Reid sent a letter back to his colleagues claiming essentially that there is no bill yet – because no final decisions can be made until the CBO estimate comes back. Reid goes on to assure his colleagues, that he
will make the legislation available to the full Senate and the American people prior to its consideration. There will be ample opportunity to examine and evaluate its provisions.
(Note that he doesn’t say how long the bill will be available, and what constitutes "ample opportunity" may lie in the eye of the beholder.)
But leaving that aside, Reid’s claim that there is no legislative language yet strikes me as odd, because after all, he announced a deal at the beginning of last week – and sent the language to the CBO. During the Senate Finance Committee deliberations, CBO Director Elmendorf said the following:
A formal cost estimate would require, we have said this to people on the house and senate side, would really require two weeks of work by us, once a package Is settled. And that may seem like a long time, but it – there are a lot of complications in doing this right, as you need it to be done and it is the interaction effects among the provisions, it is reading the legislative language. Our official cost estimates are based on reading of actual language, very complicated to write this language and to interpret it correctly, and that often involves a certain amount of iteration between us and the staff of the relevant committees.
So if the CBO is currently working to put together its final cost estimate, they have to have the language in front of them. Whether or not Sen. Reid sent them three different options – the final language must be there, so why can’t we see it?
TPMDC posted Reid’s full letter here.