FLASHBACK: Top Democrats Demanded Cost Analysis Before 2017 Healthcare Votes

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Reporter
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Top Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Senate demanded a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score before an ultimately unsuccessful 2017 vote to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The CBO, a non-partisan research office, offers projections about the impact of all federal legislation on the budget and debt. Five moderate Democrats in the House, led by Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy, have pledged not to vote for President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better reconciliation package without a CBO score. Democratic leadership is pressing the group to support the legislation without the analysis, in a dramatic shift from the party’s 2017 stance. (RELATED: ‘I’ve Never Seen Anything Like This’: Manchin Blasts Build Back Better Negotiating Process)

Then, leading Democrats demanded that Republicans wait for the CBO to publish its analysis before moving forward with a plan to repeal the ACA and replace it with the American Health Care Act, a bill introduced by Tennessee Rep. Diane Black. That bill passed the House on May 5, 2017. The CBO published its score on May 24.

As the House considered the bill, 96 Democrats wrote to then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, requesting that he “resubmit the bill to the [CBO] and receive an updated score prior to floor consideration” in order to “ensur[e] an open and transparent legislative process.” Signatories included Murphy, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairwoman Cheri Bustos, and current House Financial Services Committee chairwoman Maxine Waters.

At the same time, Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer called on the House Ways and Means Committee to “delay consideration” of the new bill “until CBO report is available.”

Democratic Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader, one of the five moderates demanding a score before he votes on Build Back Better, claimed in 2017 that voting on the AHCA without the analysis was “reckless.”

Democratic California Rep. Ro Khanna, a member of the left-wing Congressional Progressive Caucus, claimed that passing a bill without a score was “rushing.”

After a Republican working group amending the AHCA produced an amendment to the House-passed legislation, then-California Sen. Kamala Harris blasted a potential vote on the bill without a “full CBO score” as “shameful.”

The push was ultimately unsuccessful, after Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted with all 48 Democrats to oppose the repeal.