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Bolstered by Tea Party support, Republicans seized majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives this year on a pledge to reel in government spending, starting with the repeal of Health Care Reform.
The Republican-controlled house did just, voting to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law nearly a year ago.
But before taking that vote the Republicans in the house also scuttled "pay as you go" provisions that Democrats had restored in 2007, requiring any increased expenditures flowing from a new piece of legislation to be offset by decreases in other programs.
In its place, Republicans approved "cut as you go," which requires that any proposed spending increases be paid for with cuts in other areas. And unlike "the Democrats’ pay-as-you-go policy, tax increases (including closing of tax loopholes) to pay for new spending are prohibited.
But at the same time, Republicans specifically exempted from the rule votes to extend the Bush tax cuts and the estate tax and alternative minimum tax. Also exempted was the vote to repeal the health care reform legislation.
This moved Sherrod Brown, the senior senator from Ohio to observe that Republicans "bragged about how every bill was going to be paid for, right from the beginning. And the first bill they put out there, it would be paid for, according to Congressional Budget Office calculations. That's the way things are done in the Congress and have been agreed to by both parties for years and years. They already violated their own rule by not paying for this."
Given that the Republicans have preached the need to cut the budget, PolitiFact Ohio thought it’d take a look at Brown’s claim.
The Congressional Budget office was created by an act of Congress in 1974 to act as the non-partisan authority on how proposed legislation would affecting the federal budget. When it analyzed the health-care reform legislation, it said the impact over the next 10 years would be a deficit reduction of $143 billion.
That’s what Brown cites when he says the health reform bill would be paid for.
Republicans dispute those estimates and argue that health reform will drive up the deficit. That being the case, they say, the effect of the "cut as you go" rule change is moot because repeal would save the taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars -- meaning there would be no spending increase that needed to be offset elsewhere.
Letters from CBO director Douglas W. Elmendorf to House Speaker John Boehner and other congressional leaders warn that all projections carry a degree of speculation because there are economic variables that can reshape revenues and expenditures over the next decade without foreseeability.
Ultimately, who is right may prove to be academic. Republicans acknowledge the repeal vote was symbolic because it’s unlikely the Democratic-controlled Senate will act on the legislation and even if it did, Republicans don’t have enough votes to override an Obama veto.
So where does that leave Brown’s claim on the Truth-O-Meter?
The senator is correct that House Republicans did pledge to not approve any legislation that would push up the federal deficit. The question then is did they, as he said, violate their own rule?
That's where the exemption that was approved with the House rules comes into play. Brown mentioned that exemption during his teleconference, describing it as a loophole Republicans carved out to avoid the cut-as-you-go restrictions. But with that exemption, the repeal vote didn't violate the rule. That's a point of clarification.
We rate Brown’s statement as Mostly True.
H. Res. 5, Rules for the 112th Congress, including the ‘cut as you go rule," approved Jan. 5, 2011
Politico, "GOP won’t count cost of repeal," Jan. 4, 2011
Bloomberg, House Republicans to weaken anti-deficit rules to ease tax cut approvals, Jan. 5, 2011
Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf, "The effects of health reform on the federal budget," April 12, 2010
House Speaker John Boehner, "Obamacare: A budget-busting, job-killing health care law," Jan. 6, 2011
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, "Estimated financial effects of the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," April 22, 2010
Fox News, "House Republicans vote to overturn ObamaCare in symbolic move," Jan. 19, 2011
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