BUD­GET OF­FICE vet­er­ans de­fend work as flak flies.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - MAX EHRENFREUND

WASH­ING­TON — The for­mer di­rec­tors of the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice — a bi­par­ti­san group that in­cludes some of the na­tion’s most em­i­nent economists — pub­lished a let­ter de­fend­ing the agency Fri­day morn­ing af­ter weeks of crit­i­cism from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Pres­i­dent Donald Trump’s deputies have at­tacked the bud­get of­fice pub­licly and re­lent­lessly in re­sponse to its un­for­giv­ing analy­ses of Repub­li­can pro­pos­als to re­peal parts of the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act. Although the agency’s cur­rent di­rec­tor, Keith Hall, was ap­pointed by a Repub­li­can Congress, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has ar­gued that the meth­ods the agency uses are un­sound and that its staff fa­vors the Demo­cratic agenda.

Par­ti­san crit­i­cism of the bud­get of­fice is nearly as old as the agency it­self, which be­gan op­er­at­ing in 1975.

The text does not men­tion any spe­cific crit­i­cisms or the White House ex­plic­itly. It is ad­dressed to the top Democrats and Repub­li­cans in the House and Se­nate: House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., and Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

“Re­ly­ing on CBO’s es­ti­mates in the leg­isla­tive process has served the Congress — and the Amer­i­can peo­ple — very well dur­ing the past four decades,” the au­thors wrote, us­ing the in­ti­ials of the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice.

The sig­na­to­ries of the let­ter in­clude Dou­glas Holtz-Eakin, a con­ser­va­tive sup­porter of the GOP ef­fort to dis­man­tle the 2010 health law, as well as Peter Orszag, who served as bud­get di­rec­tor in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The bud­get of­fice is tasked with pro­vid­ing law­mak­ers with im­par­tial in­for­ma­tion about the fed­eral bud­get, taxes and the na­tional debt.

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est pro­jec­tions from the agency, is­sued Wed­nes­day, the Se­nate’s ver­sion of the GOP bill to re­peal and re­place the Af­ford­able Care Act would re­sult in about 22 mil­lion ad­di­tional Amer­i­cans go­ing with­out in­surance af­ter a decade.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment would save money and pre­mi­ums would de­crease over­all in the in­di­vid­ual mar­ket un­der the GOP plan, the bud­get of­fice said. But at the same time, some con­sumers — par­tic­u­larly older, up­per-mid­dle-class adults — could pay thou­sands more in pre­mi­ums, and typ­i­cal de­ductibles could in­crease to as much as $13,000 a year.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has ar­gued that the bud­get of­fice failed to ac­cu­rately forecast the ef­fects of the Af­ford­able Care Act when it was ini­tially passed. The agency over­es­ti­mated the num­ber of peo­ple who would gain in­surance un­der the law. In par­tic­u­lar, ac­cord­ing to the ad­min­is­tra­tion, the bud­get of­fice places too much em­pha­sis on the law’s re­quire­ment that every Amer­i­can carry health in­surance.

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