Spending bill by House hard-liners targets CBO
Conservative hard-liners in the House are hoping to gut the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan scorekeeper whose analysis recently has bedeviled Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, by amending a massive spending bill set to be debated this week.
An amendment filed Monday by Rep. H. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., would eliminate the agency’s Budget Analysis Division, cutting 89 jobs and $15 million of the CBO’s proposed $48.5 million budget. A separate amendment filed by Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., would eliminate the same division and specify that the CBO instead evaluate legislation “by facilitating and assimilating scoring data” compiled by four private think tanks — the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute.
Griffith and Meadows are members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, but complaints about the CBO have been widespread among Republicans in recent months after the agency found that various iterations of the party’s health-care legislation would result in an increase of more than 20 million uninsured Americans over the coming decade. Critics have attacked the CBO’s analysis and pointed to its projections on the Affordable Care Act as evidence that the office, now led by a Republican-selected director, cannot be trusted to accurately analyze complex legislation.
The criticism compelled the eight former directors of the CBO, which was created in 1974, to sign a letter Friday objecting to “recent attacks on the integrity and professionalism of the agency and on the agency’s role in the legislative process.”
But conservatives say the CBO’s scorekeeping is best left to other outlets.
“They’re the one group that makes a weatherman’s 10-day forecast look accurate,” said Meadows, the Freedom Caucus chairman. “There’s plenty of think tanks that are out there. And so we ought to take a score from Heritage, from AEI, from Brookings, from the Urban Institute and bring them together for a composite score that would represent a very wide swath of think tanks and their abilities.”
The White House also has attacked the CBO’s credibility as the health-care repeal effort has languished. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., at times has criticized the agency’s health-care estimates, but he also defended it from attacks last month, telling reporters that “it’s important that we have a referee.”