Finance Talks Summon Cost Guru Elmendorf

By Caitlin Taylor

Jul 23, 2009 2:56pm

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf reports: Perhaps its a sign that these bipartisan Finance Committee are moving to the weighty issue of paying for health reform – CBO Director Doug Elmendorf, who heretofore has taken part only via conference call, just went into Sen. Baucus' office. Moments later, on-camera, Sen. Olympia Snowe said what Elmendorf has to say will be integral to whether a bill can be passed out of the Finance Committee before the Aug. 7 recess. She said Elmendorf will be offering cost estimates on some things today, but also to get details from the committee on the proposals they are working through. Elmendorf was summoned to the White House earlier in the week, drawing some fire from Republicans, who said the White House should not be meeting with the director of the non-partisan cost assessment arm of Congress. But it is Elmendorf's  unflinching assessments of the Democrats' partisan bills in the House and Senate and their inability to get health costs under control, that has given these bipartisan Senate Finance Committee talks more weight as the negotiators seek a way to reform health care that will lower ballooning costs for consumers and for the federal government. Most experts agree the federal budget will be consumed withing decades by health care costs under the current Medicare and Medicaid system without reform.

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