VERIFY – YOU’VE GOT QUESTIONS, WE’LL FIND ANSWERS
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There are tons of questions swirling around the Internet following Thursday’s vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
We decided to tackle some of those questions starting with this one we saw on Facebook: Has either chamber voted on another major piece of legislation without a “score” from the Congressional Budget Office.
A score is an analysis of the financial impact of the legislation on the federal budget.
The House passed the American Health Care Act on a party line vote Thursday. The CBO scored the original bill back in March, but its updated report on the amended bill isn’t expected until the end of next week.
WHAT WE FOUND
Congress created the CBO in 1974 as a way for lawmakers to better understand budgets and the fiscal impacts of legislation.
Lawmakers had previously relied on the president’s Office of Management and Budget for this kind of technical advice, but they didn’t always trust its reports. In short, they wanted an impartial agency to weigh in on money issues coming before Congress.
The CBO officially opened February 24, 1975.
That means one answer this question is to say yes; thousands of important bills throughout America’s history became law without a score from CBO.
But the more accurate question to ask is: Since the CBO’s creation, has either chamber voted on a major piece of legislation without a CBO score?
We turned to the CBO for that answer.
“CBO provides formal, written estimates of the cost of virtually every bill approved by Congressional committees to show how the bill would affect spending or revenues over the next 5 or 10 years, depending on the type of spending involved,” according to its website.
That amounts to somewhere between 500 and 700 formal estimates in a calendar year.
Federal lawmakers create about 5,000 to 6,000 bills each year, according to GovTrack, a website that tracks congressional legislation.
At first blush that looks like CBO scores about 10 percent of the bills created by Congress, but the important thing to know is that many of the bills Congress creates never get a single vote.
That’s why the CBO focuses on estimating the cost of bills approved by Congressional Committees. These are the bills that have a chance of becoming law.
“Such cost estimates are intended to ensure that when the House and Senate consider legislation recommended by committees, members have information about the budgetary consequences of enacting that legislation that can be used to enforce budgetary rules or targets,” according to the CBO.
During the two years of the 114th Congress (2015-2017), 661 bills got a vote out of the 12,063 that were written.
The decision to vote on the Obamacare repeal and replace bill without a CBO score was unusual. We couldn’t find another vote on a major piece of legislation since 1975.
And the number of reports the agency produces annually backs up its claim that it estimates the cost of “virtually every bill” that stands a chance of becoming law.
Before we finish, it's worth noting House Republicans like Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colorado) say the new CBO score for the AHCA will be relatively similar to the first one, and that's why they felt comfortable voting for the bill Thursday.
And a handful Democrats agree with that, including Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado).
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