It's amateur hour at the White House:
President Obama is against repealing the health law's long-term care CLASS Act and might veto Republican efforts to do so, an administration official tells The Hill, despite the government's announcement Friday that the program was dead in the water. "We do not support repeal," the official said Monday. "Repealing the CLASS Act isn't necessary or productive. What we should be doing is working together to address the long-term care challenges we face in this country."
Over the weekend, The Hill has learned, an administration official called CLASS Act advocates to reassure them that Obama is still committed to making the program work. That official also told advocates that widespread media reports on the program's demise were wrong, leaving advocates scratching their heads.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Friday in a blog post on the liberal Huffington Post web site that the administration did not see a way to make the program sustainable. Sebelius indicated her agency hadn't been able to figure out a way to ensure the program providing long-term care paid for itself as required by law.
Later in a call with reporters on Friday, an HHS official said work on the program was being suspended. "We won't be working further to implement the CLASS Act … We don't see a path forward to be able to do that," Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee told reporters on Friday.
And now, a brief reminder about CLASS' faulty finances:
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, meanwhile, said Monday that repealing the program would not add to the deficit, making Republican repeal efforts that much easier. The Obama administration sold the healthcare law with the argument that it would lower the nation's long-term health costs, and the CLASS Act was an important reason why. CBO had scored the long-term care program for people with disabilities as saving the nation $86 billion in spending over 10 years. That's about 40 percent of the health law's $210 billion in total estimated deficit reduction over the next decade.
Let's review: The CLASS Act was a comprehensive actuarial sham from day one. The White House knew it, but they forged ahead with the program anyway because they needed its never-gonna-happen "revenues" to help concoct a bogus CBO score for Obamacare. Now that Obamacare is the law of the land, they're letting the mask slip a bit. (Oops, there go half the "deficit savings" we promised! Oh well). They're pretending that they're just now discovering that CLASS is unsustainable. As my previous link demonstrates, that's totally dishonest -- but the fact remains that the White House has explicitly conceded the sustainability argument by its de facto cancellation of the program. And yet, the president is threatening to veto legislation that would formally eradicate the failed program. What? At first, this display evokes an image of chaotic incoherence -- but view the glaring contradiction through a purely political lense (what other relevant lense is there with this crew?), and the truth shall be revealed:
(1) The White House has a vested interest in sparing Obama the humiliation of signing (yet another) partial repeal of his own signature legislative "accomplishment." Such an act would be a both procedural and momentum coup for the GOP's total repeal effort, as well as an undeniable political black eye for the administration. Each time the White House formally abandons elements of its healthcare power grab, average Americans ask themselves why those provisions were included to begin with. The answer to that question, of course, is that Democrats needed to disguise the true cost of their already-unpopular bill to jam it through. And that won't improve these numbers. Or these.
(2) Explicit repeal would prevent the administration from continuing to blow smoke at the CLASS Act's remaining (Left-wing) proponents. Quietly dropping CLASS in a Friday news dump at least provides Obama, Inc. some latitude to massage the base by whispering disingenuous and reassuring platitudes about how the president is still "committed" to "making making the program work." He's not, because it can't -- but Obama's always been all about the worrrrrds.
Republicans should push hard for repeal. Let Senate Democrats explain why they're voting to sustain a program that even the White House admits isn't sustainable (which they knew along). Even better, let Obama veto the bill. I hope Kathleen Sebelius is drawing up some magical new talking points to try to salvage this mess. I'll leave you with this classic video of Harry Reid absolutely lying his ass off about the CLASS Act's funding gimmicks back in 2009, courtesy of The Examiner:
The Lie: "[The CLASS Act is] fully paid for, CBO said, in the far future, decades and decades into the future...I didn’t use a penny of that money for the bill that’s before the Senate."
The Truth: The statement wasn't even remotely accurate. Just weeks before he made this claim, on Nov. 25, the CBO wrote that, "The CLASS program would add to budget deficits in future decades even though the proposals require the Secretary of HHS to set premiums to ensure the program’s solvency for 75 years." Furthermore, the CLASS Act's phony short-term surpluses (created because it was to collect five years of premiums before paying out any benefits), accounted for about half of the deficit reduction.
The Lesson: Beware Democrats promising "fully paid for" gifts. They tend to lie.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography