House Democrats have modified their “extenders” bill and appear to be bringing it to the floor for a vote today. Monday’s version would have increased the deficit by $134 B over the next decade. Today’s version would increase the deficit by $84 B over that same timeframe. What hard choices did the Leaders make to cut the net deficit impact by $50 B?
They simply extended the most expensive provisions for a shorter period of time:
- The new bill extends the unemployment insurance and COBRA health insurance benefits through November 2010 rather than through December 2010 in Monday’s version.
- The Medicare “doctors’ fix” would extend through 2011, rather than through 2013 in Tuesday’s version. (Note: In Monday’s post I mistakenly wrote that the bill contained an 18-month doctors’ fix.)
CBO has to score the amendment as written, so these two provisions are scored as “saving” $50 B relative to the Monday version. But just as it was unreasonable to assume that the increased Medicare spending for doctors would suddenly stop at the end of 2013, it is similarly foolhardy to assume it will stop at the end of 2011.
They are doing in this bill exactly what they did in the two health care bills in March: shifting some of the spending into future legislation to reduce the apparent cost of the current bill.
Will it work again? Will Blue Dogs and other House Democrats who opposed Monday’s version vote for today’s version thanks to this $50 B fig leaf?