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Boehner in Wonderland: Kill Health Care Before Reviewing the Evidence

3 years ago
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Now that Speaker John Boehner has been handed Hagrid's gavel, the first order of policy business for the newly empowered House Republicans is eradicating President Obama's health care reform package by passing HR 2, which is titled -- seriously -- "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act."

The measure, scheduled for a quick vote next Wednesday, will pass with Republican votes, but it won't go anywhere: Democrats in the Senate won't bother with it, and Obama has already vowed to veto the measure, if it ever reaches his desk. Which it won't. But this stunt -- being conducted instead of real business (such as proposing alternative legislation that would address the nation's health care woes or bills that might spur job creation) -- has placed GOP hypocrisy on display.

The Republicans, who have proclaimed fealty to congressional due process and deficit tracking, are rushing ahead with a vote on the bill without holding hearings or a committee mark-up and without submitting it to the nonprofit Congressional Budget Office to determine its impact on deficits. Still, the CBO has issued a statement stating that repeal of the health care law will add $230 billion to the deficits through the next ten years.

So the games have begun. But perhaps the biggest (bad) joke is in the name of this bill. The Republicans are once again trying to win an argument by making a provocative assertion they cannot prove -- such as when they falsely claimed Obama's recovery package had not created a single new job. (The CBO calculated the legislation had saved or created about 3.5 million jobs.)

This time, the assertion is another simplistic mantra: Obamacare kills jobs. On Thursday, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the new House majority leader, indicated that undoing the health care measure is the GOP's top priority when it comes to dealing with the country's economic troubles: "Obamacare spends a trillion dollars that we don't have and kills jobs at a time when our top priority must be getting people back to work. This job-killing health care law has caused great uncertainty for employers small and large and has put our country on a path to fiscal insolvency."

Cantor didn't say anything about the screw-ups that led to the Bush-Cheney crash that threw the economy into a ravine. The true problem with the economy is not a health care bill that has yet to be fully implemented. That aside, Cantor's specific charge that the bill is a job-killer is empty rhetoric.

On Thursday, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington think tank that supports the bill, released a report noting that according to the CBO's conclusions Obama health care reform will not be a destroyer of jobs The CBO estimates that health care reform will have little effect on health care premiums for businesses and will likely reduce them between 0 and 3 percent in 2016 for businesses with more than 50 workers (which is 70 percent of the total insurance market). Smaller businesses, the CBO projects, will see premiums change in the range from a 1-percent hike to a 2-percent drop. The CBPP report quotes a Moody's Analytics finding concluding that "the net long-run impact [of the health care law] on the economy will be minor."

CBPP maintains, "House Republicans are crying wolf about potential negative effects of health reform on labor markets." It also points out that Cantor and Co. are ignoring the aspects of the health care measure that could have a positive effect on the economy, such as greater labor flexibility and healthier workers.

CBPP analysts are honest enough to admit that the law could wield some negative impacts on the labor market, but it seconds CBO's bottom-line conclusion that overall the effects (both positive and negative) will be modest. The GOPers don't engage in such intellectual candor. They opt for brazen exaggeration when they dub the measure a "job-killer," let alone place that term in the title of the bill. (By the way, here's a fun fact: In the short speech Boehner delivered when he became speaker on Wednesday, he did not once mention "jobs.")

Are CBPP and CBO correct in their appraisals of Obama's health care law? There's no way to know for certain. The same, though, has to be said for the GOP's apocalyptic prediction. Which is why the GOP's approach to legislating is fundamentally phony. If the Republicans truly believe there is a solid case for their claim that the health care bill will (further) wreck the economy, they ought to hold hearings and invite experts from all sides. Let their favorite analysts mix it up with folks from CBO, CBPP, and Moody's. Live on C-SPAN!

Boehner and his crew should try to win the argument with facts, not hyperbolic statements. If they are indeed fans of responsible read-the-bill-first governing, as they claim, this is the least they can do. Instead, they're behaving like the Red Queen: "sentence first -- verdict afterward." Actually, there won't be any verdict (that is, hearings) afterward. Just the sentence: kill it.

Welcome to Boehner's wonderland. You can fill in your own joke about a tea party.

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.

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