Once again, it appears Republicans are about to vote on a bill to repeal Obamacare before anybody can figure out what the legislation actually does. On Monday afternoon, the Congressional Budget Office announced it would not able to complete a full score of the legislation submitted by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, to which the Senate GOP has now pinned its hopes. Instead, it will release a “preliminary” estimate more or less analyzing whether the plan meets the bare minimum requirements to pass through the budget reconciliation process. That forecast will not include specific numbers about the bill’s “effects on the deficit, health insurance coverage, or premiums.” Those won’t be available “for at least several weeks.”
Republicans need to vote on Graham-Cassidy before Sept. 30, when the reconciliation instructions they are relying on to pass repeal with just 50 Senate votes (plus Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaker) will expire. Thus, it looks like the GOP will attempt to pass a bill remaking much of the U.S. health care system without any even-handed, third-party analysis to rely upon. Cassidy’s office has reportedly been producing its own analyses of the bill’s impact; I’m sure they’re incredibly reliable.
Of course, this is not the first time the GOP will have voted on a repeal bill without the slightest clue of what it actually does. Back in May, the House also passed its own legislation before a CBO score was complete. Three weeks later, the office reported that the legislation would leave 23 million Americans uninsured in 10 years.
Voting blind on Graham-Cassidy would be a good order of magnitude more irresponsible than the House’s shenanigans, though. Many lower-chamber Republicans chose to support repeal on the assumption that the Senate would change, and maybe even improve, whatever bill they passed. If the Senate votes for Graham-Cassidy, on the other hand, the House won’t be able to change it once the end-of-the-month deadline passes. Lawmakers will either have to pass the thing wholesale or effectively shoot it down (technically they could send it back to the Senate with changes, but at that point the bill would require 60 votes to pass). Maybe they’ll wait to find out what the bill does first, but I wouldn’t bet on it.