The Boehner debt plan was scored by the Congressional Budget Office, revealing not $1.2 trillion in cuts but $850 billion. The explanation is simple. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) put out a statement: “We’re here to change Washington – no more smoke-and-mirrors, no more ‘phantom cuts.’ We promised that we will cut spending more than we increase the debt limit — with no tax hikes — and we will keep that promise. As we speak, Congressional staff are looking at options to re-write the legislation to meet our pledge. This is what can happen when you have an actual plan and submit it for independent review — which the Democrats who run Washington have refused to do.”

I asked a House aide if the CBO’s $850 billion figure was the difference between using the January 2011 baseline or the March 2011 baseline. The succinct answer was ”yes.” What now? A House source confessed, “They are charting the way forward as we speak.”

Was this a hide-the-ball issue? I find it relatively impossible, given the stakes and the margin for error, that this was a planned effort to lower cuts that the CBO “revealed.” But what the House leadership is doing is smart — put it out there, provide time for rewriting, gather the troops and make good on the promise to cut more than the debt limit is raised.

A final note: It is very likely that the Harry Reid plan, which President Obama endorsed and then slammed last night, has the same baseline mix-up. This, folks, is why you need a regular, open budget process. Somewhere Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who has been counting the days with no Senate budget, is having one heck of an “I told you so.”