That's according to the CBO's new score of Republicans' revised plan, which has been pieced together after days of mostly behind-the-scenes dealmaking aimed at the impossible task of pleasing intransigent conservatives and moderate Republicans. Basically the only difference this new bill will have on the federal government is how much it will cost: Instead of reducing the deficit by an estimated $337 billion over the next decade like the first version did, it will reduce it by about $150 billion.
This CBO score is one of the reasons Republicans' last-minute delay on a planned Thursday vote on the bill is so damaging for their already slim chances of getting something passed: It gives every side opposed to this bill — and there are many — more time to digest what they hate most about it.
The Washington Post's Amy Goldstein reports that the cut in federal income largely comes from a provision in the new bill to make it easier for Americans to deduct the cost of medical care from their income taxes (so more money the federal government owes). It would also speed up a GOP-planned repeal to get rid of several taxes on the medical industry that helps pay for the Affordable Care Act, such as taxes on medical devices and tanning salons (so less money the federal government receives). More money owed + less money in = less money to close the government's yearly difference in spending vs. revenue, i.e. the deficit.
Time is the enemy of House Republican leaders, who by their own acknowledgment want to push through not a perfect bill, but a good-enough bill, and then leave it to the Senate and a TBD date to fix the rest.
“There are only so many things you can do in that bill because of Senate floor rules, reconciliation,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters earlier this month. “You can't put everything you want in that legislation, because if you did, it would be filibustered, and you couldn't even bring it up for a vote in the Senate.”
But a tenet of compromise is that it pleases no one. And the longer the dozen-or-so skeptical Republicans have to hear from their constituents about where this compromise falls short, the less likely they are to support it. Advocacy groups and Democrats, such as Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.) are already using the CBO numbers to pound Republicans.
Time is also the enemy of House Republicans for procedural reasons, as I wrote recently:
To pass the legislation quickly (and without help from Democrats), Republicans need to use a special budget procedure called reconciliation that allows them to avoid a 60-vote filibuster in the Senate.Reconciliation is pretty much made for situations like these: You control the majority in both chambers and want to get something done quickly without having to lobby the minority party for votes. But there's a limit to reconciliation's usefulness, in that Republicans can wield it only while they're debating the budget. And that time is right now. Republicans plan to use the same tool to debate tax reform this fall, the next time they'll be in budget negotiations.
All of this is why it's now or never to pass health-care changes.
Delaying the vote by a few days isn't going to knock Republicans off their self-imposed, strategic schedule to deliver big on health care and taxes. But the more time Republican and their constituents have to digest these numbers about a hard-sell bill, the more it will make an already impossible task more impossible.