Drinking to the CBO

Having done damage control on his slight to law enforcement, it might be time for the President to invite Congress over for a beer.

For the second time this month, congressional budget analysts have dealt a blow to the Democrat's health reform efforts, this time by saying a plan touted by the White House as crucial to paying for the bill would actually save almost no money over 10 years.

The policy of the White House is to let Congress develop the legislation to match the administration's generalized goals - that way, the theory goes, everyone in the legislative process has a chance to help craft the outcome, so they're invested in its success.

A key House chairman and moderate House Democrats on Tuesday agreed to a White House-backed proposal that would give an outside panel the power to make cuts to government-financed health care programs. White House budget director Peter Orszag declared the plan "probably the most important piece that can be added" to the House's health care reform legislation.

The trouble is, Congress keeps blowing it.

But on Saturday, the Congressional Budget Office said the proposal to give an independent panel the power to keep Medicare spending in check would only save about $2 billion over 10 years- a drop in the bucket compared to the bill's $1 trillion price tag.

Which is where the beer comes in. If it will work to bring Professor Gates and Sgt. Crowley together to bury the hatchet, maybe sitting down with Congress would get the socialized medicine project more focused.

"In CBO's judgment, the probability is high that no savings would be realized ... but there is also a chance that substantial savings might be realized. Looking beyond the 10-year budget window, CBO expects that this proposal would generate larger but still modest savings on the same probabilistic basis," CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf wrote in a letter to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Saturday.

With Congressional leaders unable to get Blue Dog Democrats on board with health care reform, Obama is going to have to get more involved and use those powers of persuasion that come with being president.