The White House announced this morning that it would be delaying release of updated financial and economic forecasts until the middle of August. In other words, its usual mid-July update of key forecasts for policy makers will not be published in time for expected House and Senate votes on health care reform. This delay matters enormously to the deliberations of Congress on this central issue. If it knew that the near-term budget picture is worsening and that it cannot count on a recovering economy to produce much needed revenues for reforming health care, it might hesitate in passing legislation that would add tremendously to the national debt.

In the private sector, a management team that kept a company’s worsening financial condition from stockholders and then attempted to borrow funds to expand its business would probably find itself in very serious legal trouble. Hiding material facts about the likely near-term financial condition of a business commonly violates a number of federal regulations, particularly after passage of Sarbanes-Oxley reforms to required financial reporting rules.

If Congress believed it so important to make certain stockholders are protected from intentional distortions and delays of crucial financial legislation, why would it tolerate similar delays when it is deciding on legislation with enormous financial implications for the federal government? Why shouldn’t the White House be held to the exact same standard of financial reporting that Congress requires the private sector to follow?

Congressional leadership in both chambers should immediately pass resolutions calling on the White House to provide up-to-date financial and economic projections before votes are taken on legislation that adds to the annual deficit and to overall national debt. No member should vote on adding to our financial obligations on the mistaken impression that the near-term financial and economic outlook is brighter than the White House actually believes it is.