The White House’s CBO Blues

The Congressional Budget Office is finally out with its analysis of the Trump-backed American Health Care Act, and the results are, well, not great, Bob! The big headline, and the big headache for the White House, is the estimate that in less than a decade 24 million fewer people would have insurance than under current law. Even worse, up to 14 million could lose health insurance next year—a gift-wrapped talking point for Democrats.

It won’t be an entirely fair talking point. My colleague Chris Deaton points out that when the government stops mandating Americans buy insurance, as the GOP plan proposes, a lot of people will opt not to buy insurance at all—particularly young people with low medical costs. This has long been a Republican principle in the Obamacare era: Americans should be able to make their own choices, in a more competitive market, when buying health insurance.

But some of the people who lose their insurance will likely be lower-income, older Americans priced out of the market because they will receive a lower tax credit from the Obamacare insurance subsidy. The Trump administration could make an argument with the public that a drop in coverage for the short term is better for the market and for consumers in the long term. But how does it justify a plan that raises insurance costs on the least wealthy who aren’t on Medicaid?

“We Disagree Strenuously”

Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price, speaking to reporters outside the White House Monday afternoon, said the administration “disagree[s] strenuously” with the CBO’s report. Price argued the report does not account for the entire plan, including the “regulatory apparatus” that can cover some of the shortfalls in coverage the CBO highlights. House speaker Paul Ryan, on the other hand, told Fox News’s Bret Baier Monday night that he’s “encouraged” by the report and that it “exceeded expectations.”

The Washington Examiner‘s Philip Klein offers a sober assessment of the CBO’s analysis and finds reasons for both Ryan’s optimism and the administration’s effort to discredit it. The CBO’s models determined the plan would reduce the deficit and lower taxes and spending, and the report also downplayed the possibility of financial instability that some liberals fear.

But CBO not only predicts coverage would drop over next year ahead of the midterm election—premiums would (temporarily) go up, too. Recent campaigns where a major issue is insurance premium hikes haven’t worked out well for the party in charge, and Democrats would be thrilled at the chance to use the GOP’s best electoral weapon against them.

So what does the CBO report mean for the bill’s chance of becoming law? Before Monday, passage as currently written looked questionable in the House and near impossible in the Senate. No amount of dismissal from the White House or happy talk from the speaker’s office seems likely to ease those Republican members’ concerns. The CBO gives them more reason to worry.

The White House Backs Away from Trump’s Wiretapping Claims

This is the beginning of the walkback from Trump’s explosive allegations ten days ago. From the Wall Street Journal:

In an animated question-and-answer session with reporters during his regular briefing, Mr. Spicer suggested Mr. Trump had been speaking broadly when he posted his accusations against Mr. Obama on March 4.

“He doesn’t really think that President Obama went up and tapped his phone personally,” Mr. Spicer said. “But I think there’s no question that the Obama administration—that there were actions about surveillance and other activities that occurred in the 2016 election. That is a widely reported activity that occurred back then. The president used the word ‘wiretapped’ in quotes to mean, broadly, surveillance and other activities.”

The Justice Department, meanwhile, contacted the House intelligence committee, which is investigating Trump’s claims, on Thursday “to ask for additional time to review the request in compliance with the governing legal authorities and to determine what if any responsive documents may exist,” according to a DOJ statement.

A Snow Delay Keeps Merkel Away

The winter storm sweeping across the northeast has delayed German chancellor Angela Merkel’s planned visit to the White House Tuesday. White House press secretary Sean Spicer announced Merkel would instead sit down with President Trump in the Oval Office on Friday. That’s a day after Trump will meet with Ireland’s Enda Kenny during the outgoing Taoiseach’s weeklong trip to the United States around St. Patrick’s Day.

Song of the Day

“Snow (Hey Oh),” Red Hot Chili Peppers.

This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard

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