GOP Asks White House to Release Documents of Closed Door Health Care Meetings

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has requested that the Obama administration release documents related to its closed door negotiations with special interest groups during its push for national health care.

Republicans vowed to use their oversight power if they took the majority, and requesting documents is one part of that ongoing process, which has also included hearings.

The letter was addressed to Nancy-Ann De Parle, the current White House deputy chief of staff, who had previously served as the director of the White House Office for Health Reform during the administration’s health care push.

Specifically, Republicans are requesting 1) A list of all represenatives or officials of the White House office 2) A list of all meetings, briefings and phone calls 3) “All notes, minutes, transcripts, documents, summaries, or any other written or recorded materials” related to those meetings and 4) “All written communications, including e-mail, regarding reforms or changes to the health care system” between WHOHR representatives and outside groups.

During the health care debate, the administration was criticized for its lack of transparency as it held private meetings to cut deals with drug makers, insurers, unions and other outside groups.

The letter was signed by Energy and Commerce committee chairman Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, Rep. Cliff Stearns, chiarman of the health subcommittee, Joe Pitts, and vice chairman of the health subcomittee, Rep. Michael Burgess.

You can read the full letter here.

92 House Republicans Vote Against More Aggressive Spending Cuts

The House of Representatives just rejected a proposal by the conservative Republican Study Committee that would have returned non-security discretionary spending to 2008 levels.

The measure failed by an overwhelming 281 to 147 margin, with 92 Republicans voting “no.”

The idea behind the amendment was to keep with the GOP campaign pledge to cut annual spending by $100 billion. Its failure is likely to raise concerns that Republicans are not serious about reducing spending. Though I think a bigger indicator will be the 2012 budget that they unviel in April, which will include a 10-year deficit reduction plan. House Speaker John Boehner has insisted that the proposal will include enitlement reforms.

House Votes to Defund ObamaCare Implementation

The House of Representatives has just passed four amendments to defund various aspects of the implementation of the national health care law.

In the most sweeping amendment, the House approved a measure introduced by Rep. Steven King of Iowa that would deny funding for the implementation of any provision of the health care law, 241 to 187. It also approved his amendment barring the payment of salaries to any official who funds the law, 237 to 191.

Another amendment, proposed by Rep. Denny Rehberg, would strip funding to the Department of Health and Human Services for the implementation of the law. That passed 239 to 187.

Rep. Jo An Emerson offered an amendment to deny the IRS money to implement the health care law — that passed 248 to 180. It attracted the most Democratic support — 8 votes. None of the other amendments received more than three Democratic votes. No more than four Replicans ever voted “no.”

The votes pave the way for a confrontation with the Senate.

Pelosi Blasts GOP on Jobs, Decries Lack of Open Process in House

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took to the House floor moments ago to rip Republicans for discussing health care instead of jobs and for not debating the budget with an open process.

“The American people are desperate for jobs, they sent us here to work together to create jobs, and in the six weeks of this new majority not one piece of legislation has come forward to create one job,” Pelosi, rising in opposition to the GOP budget bill in general as well as the specific amendment to defund the implementation of the health care law, said. “Showing the lack of ideas to do so, the Republican majority has chosen instead to change the subject. To take up a bill of such consequence without hearings, without really an open process, to make amendments to it with the illusion of open debate.”

Wasserman Schultz Says Use of Term ‘ObamaCare’ Violates House Rules

Moments ago, Rep. Tom Graves was arguing that the amendment to defund the implementation of the national health care would stop the law dead in its tracks.

If it’s adopted, Graves said, “government bureaucrats cannot lift so much as a finger, move a paper clip, send an email, if it has anything to do with ObamaCare.”

At that point, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz interjected with a parliamentary inquiry, and was eventually recognized once Graves was finished speaking.

“In two previous gentlemen’s statements on the amendment, both of them referred to the Affordable Care Act, which is the accurate title of the health care reform law, as ‘ObamaCare,’” Wasserman Schultz said. “That is a disparaging reference to the President of the United States. It is meant as a disparaging reference to the President of the United States. It is clearly in violation of the House rules.”

Her argument did not go anywhere, and Republicans continued their references to ObamaCare.

House Debating Amendment to Defund ObamaCare Implementation

The House of Representatives is currently debating an amendment to the budget bill that would defund the implementation of the national health care law.

The amdendment was introduced by Rep. Denny Rehberg, who referenced Judge Roger Vinson’s decision in Florida, arguing that if that is upheld by higher courts, then all of the health care law will be struck down, and all of the money spent implementing it would be a total waste.

Rehberg compared the defunding effort to driving a car to the moon — it won’t get you there, he said, but it’s a start, by getting you to a launching pad. Clearly, the only permanent options are full repeal or seeing the law struck down by courts.

Remember, Bush Screwed Us Too

This week, I’ve been writing a lot about budget numbers. While I’ve given a hard time to President Obama — deservedly so — it’s also important to remember the fiscal recklessness of George W. Bush, whose financial mismanagement continues to haunt us.

Below, I’ve put together a chart showing the growth in spending on Bush’s Medicare prescription drug plan, known as Part D, over the decade, based on data from the most recent Medicare Trustees’ Report. Over the 10 year period from 2010 to 2019, the trustees project the program will cost the federal government $763 billion, which I’ve demonstrated in the chart below. But keep in mind that the years we’re talking about in the context of Obama’s latest budget are 2012 through 2021. Given that the program gets more expensive over time, it would probably cost about $900 billion in the comparable years.

We’ve been talking a lot about the need to reform entitlements to get the debt problem under control. Well, had Bush era Republicans simply done nothing about them, we’d be a lot better off right now.

How Obama’s Rosy Economic Forecasts Affect Budget Estimates

The budget that President Obama proposed on Monday is highly dependent on economic growth forecasts for the next decade that are significantly higher than the Congressional Budget Office has projected. Economic assumptions can affect budget numbers in several ways. For instance, if the government collects more money in a better economy provided tax rates remain constant, which shrinks deficits. At the same time, deficits appear lower as a percentage of the economy, because the economy is larger.

I put together this quick table comparing the economic growth assumptions for the White House as compared to the CBO, and as you can see, the administration’s assumptions are higher in every year but 2015, when they’re the same. In testimony before the House Budget Committee yesterday, White House Budget director Jacob Lew argued that the higher forecasts were based on historical data from past financially-based recessions.

While these don’t look significantly different at first blush, they can make a huge difference when compounded over 10 years in an economy as large as ours. To demonstrate this, I did a back of the envelope estimate by plugging in the CBO’s GDP assumptions to the White House budget numbers (i.e. assuming revenue as a percentage of GDP is the same as the Obama administration predicts). This resulted in deficits that were $1.11 trillion higher than what the administration is projecting — in other words, it wipes out the entire deficit savings the administration is claiming its budget produces. If you just take 2021 as an example, merely swapping in the CBO’s GDP assumptions moves that year’s deficit from $774 billion and 3.1 percent of GDP to $935 billion, and 3.9 percent of GDP.

I should note by way of caution that there are a lot of moving parts in a budget and these should not be considered firm numbers. (For instance, a better economy means fewer people using government services, so it can affect spending on some programs such as unemployment benefits.) Before too long, wel’ll have a full CBO analysis of President Obama’s budget. But I thought it was worth emphasizing how much of a difference alternate economic assumptions can make in budgeting.

CMS Official Confirms That Four States Have Been Granted ObamaCare Waivers

An Obama administration official on Wednesday confirmed that four states — including Florida, Tennessee and Ohio — have been granted waivers from the regulatory requirements of the national health care law.

Steve Larsen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, confirmed the news under questioning from Rep. Cliff Stearns at an oversight hearing for the House Energy and Commerce committee.

According to Larsen, the waivers have been granted to states that have programs allowing or requiring the kind of limited medical coverage plans that would otherwise be prohibited by ObamaCare. He said the waivers are good for one year and would not neccesarily apply to all plans in the states outside the state-based programs.

While he said there was also a fourth state that was granted a waiver, he could not recall off the top of his head which state.

UPDATE: The fourth state is New Jersey.