The Congressional Budget Office has long been a pivotal, though indirect, player in congressional politics, but it's hard to think of a time when a bill has hinged so precariously on its findings. This morning, reports are trickling out of Democratic offices, including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's, that the CBO score (which will be officially released this afternoon) contains some pretty good news for health-reform proponents.
The CBO will estimate that the bill the House will likely vote on this week will cost $940 billion and reduce the deficit by $130 billion over the first ten years. In the second decade of reform, the CBO anticipates that the bill will reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion.
This score will be music to Pelosi's ears. The handful of undecided Democrats who say they were waiting on the score before they decide how they'll vote will have this afternoon what looks to be the most optimistic score any of the bills has so far received.
We're still not sure exactly what the bill looks like, but we can read the tea leaves. The bill will be based on the version the Senate passed last year, but will add in some fixes, presumably similar to the ones proposed by President Obama right before the recent White House health-care summit. Comparing this CBO estimate to similar ones it produced for each of the House and Senate bills, it looks like this bill contains more deficit-reduction measures (likely in the form of some of the cost-cutting measures Obama borrowed from Republicans) while covering more people than the Senate bill (likely due to the increased subsidies to help low-income individuals purchase insurance).
So this is it. If you're a House Democrat, time is up. No more fence-sitting. Between the bill and the CBO score, you have all the information you're going to get. What's it gonna be?