House Votes To Add Hundreds Of Billions To Debt

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Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter
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The House passed a healthcare bill that could add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit Thursday, just a day after getting a balanced budget through the chamber.

The “doc-fix” bill passed overwhelmingly, and is a rare example of meaningful compromise between House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. It would solve a problem in the way Medicare payments are made to doctors, extend a children’s health insurance program and require higher-income seniors to pay higher premiums.

But the Congressional Budget Office estimates it will add $141 billion to the federal deficits over the next decade, and by 2035 it will add half a trillion dollars to the federal debt, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

All but 33 House Republicans voted for the bill, almost immediately after many lauded the passage of a budget that balances in 9 years. “It is a budget that credibly addresses our fiscal and economic challenges so we can deliver real results for the American people,” House Budget chairman Tom Price said in a statement Wednesday.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill Friday, and it seems likely to pass, although the bill faces opposition from fiscal conservatives and from some Democrats over abortion funding language and the cost-saving reforms. (RELATED: Reid, Pelosi At Odds In Latest Iteration Of Abortion Fight)

Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions said fixing the Medicare payment system is one of his highest priorities, but slammed Congress for failing to figure out a way to pay for the fix. “This is what brings this Congress in disrepute,” he said on the Senate floor Thursday.

“The same day we assert that we want to have a balanced budget, and we’ve laid out a plan that will get that in ten years, we’re now considering pass an unpaid for increase in spending that would add $170 billion to the debt.”

Boehner justified the votes Thursday, saying the healthcare bill will lead to long-term savings. “Our record on fiscal responsibility, I think, is rock solid,” he said at his weekly press conference. “When you look at the fact that we have not been able to make any changes to our entitlement programs for two decades, and we find a way to do it that produces long term savings, trust me it’s the right thing to do.”

The CBO estimate acknowledges savings will grow rapidly over the long-term, but predicts costs will grow faster. And in the short-term, the cost-saving reforms will offset just a third of the cost of the bill.

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