Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Obama Crossing Lines on Health Care Takeover? (UPDATED)

Yesterday, Ed Morrisey at Hot Air broke the story (which was picked up by Fox News...and apparently no one else) about a highly irregular meeting ordered by President Obama with Doug Elmendorf, the head of the Congressional Budget Office. You may or may not recall that last month Mr. Elmendorf poked a pin in the inflated expectations of the Obama Administration's estimates of the cost savings and increased availability of benefits which its healthcare "reform" legislation would bring about (again, h/t to Ed at HotAir). Apparently, the POTUS did not appreciate being so pricked.

The thing about this meeting is that it crosses separation-of-powers boundaries to a truly unsettling degree. The whole point of the CBO is that it is a Congressional body, whose purpose is to assess proposed legislation in terms of its likely cost to taxpayers, free from political pressure from the White House. The Executive Branch has the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to do its own analyses (and the current OMB director, Peter Orszag, happens to be the former director of the CBO, so it's not like there was any significant fact-finding value to be gained from calling in the current director). There was no good reason to go off the reservation and call this meeting, except to try and finesse (or intimidate?) Elmendorf to soften his assessment of the White House's proposals for the overhaul of how health care coverage is provided in this country. I find it difficult to swallow any more charitable interpretation of this inappropriate sit-down.

For a President who has spent so much bandwidth and oxygen criticizing his predecessor for unduly expanding the power of the Executive Branch, this crafty confab looks like a real hippo of a hypocrisy.

It will be very interesting to see what kind of coverage it gets, outside of Fox Land.

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey is staying on top of this story, which is shaping up to be a really unprecedented and, as Ed quite correctly deems it, unseemly clash between branches of our government. As it is, there is little evidence that this Administration is especially clueful about the rudiments of free-market principles. Throw in a conspicuous lack of knowledge (or at least willingness to apply any knowledge which it does possess) on basic civics, and all those barbs about Sarah Palin's intelligence and competence are starting to ring hollower than the haughty heads of Hollywood.

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