01/03/2011 03:23 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

House GOP Will Obliterate Its Own 'CutGo' Rule When It Repeals Health Reform

The House Republican leadership has announced it will enact two things immediately upon taking control of the House this week: a new "CutGo" rule to require revenue offsets for any increases in spending, and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act health reform law.

The Republicans might want to pass health reform repeal first.

Because if they install "CutGo" rules first, they won't be able to repeal health reform without also finding $1 trillion in spending cuts over the next two decades to make up for the taxpayer savings they'll be throwing away.

At minimum, if the House GOP doesn't feel bound by the Congressional Budget Office's nontraditional, long-range forecast -- which was provided because the bulk of the estimated deficit reduction would occur in the second decade of implementation -- it would at least need to offset the $143 billion that the traditional CBO estimates would be saved by health reform in this decade.

As the conservative Daily Caller reported last month, "The rule will require that any legislation that seeks to increase mandatory spending (which is spending that once added to the federal budget recurs year after year and is thus permanent) cuts spending by a similar amount."

Repealing health reform, according to the CBO, will "increase mandatory spending," and therefore would be subject to the proposed "CutGo" rule.

But now that Republicans will be controlling one body of Congress, they are going to have to deal with the fact that the Congressional Budget Office estimates are the basis for congressional budget rules.

I suppose that if this little wrinkle comes to their attention, House Republican could create an additional "CutGo" loophole (beyond the giant loophole that exempts all tax cuts from requiring offsets). Maybe they'd say the scrapping of cost-saving reforms also doesn't count. Maybe they'd say cost estimates must be based on Heritage Foundation projections instead of the CBO. I'm sure they can come up with something that would pass muster for the editors at Fox News.

But the rest of the media should not give the new House leadership a pass.

Health reform is deficit reduction. In fact, it is the only serious way to constrain the deficit over the long-term. These new House leaders who are claiming to be fiscally responsible should be held accountable for proposing to ignore their own fiscal rules before the sign is changed on the Speaker's office door.

(UPDATE: I overestimated the House GOP's creativity. The New York Times reported that the "CutGo" rule will simply have a loophole exempting the repeal of health reform. Hat tip: Alec82.)

Originally posted at