July 24, 2017

Stop the attacks on CBO, former directors tell congressional leaders

Daily Briefing

    Eight former Congressional Budget Office (CBO) directors in a letter to congressional leaders defended the agency against recent attacks from the White House and Republican lawmakers.  

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    About CBO

    CBO was created in 1974 to provide Congress with nonpartisan analysis of proposed legislation by considering their text, economic forecasts, and behavioral modeling. Though CBO's estimates have been off in the past, most experts agree that CBO scores are an extremely important part of the legislative process.

    However, both the White House and Congressional Republicans in recent months have sharply criticized CBO and have sought to discredit the agency's projections of House and Senate health reform bills.

    For instance, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called the agency's most recent projections on the Senate's Better Care for Reconciliation Act "bogus." The White House issued a statement via Twitter that stated, "The CBO continues to prove its models simply can't be trusted to accurately predict the outcomes of important health care legislation." Some GOP lawmakers have even turned to HHS to score their proposals, although critics have dismissed HHS as having a partisan bias as it is led by political appointees.

    Letter details

    The former directors wrote, "We write to express our strong objection to recent attacks on the integrity and professionalism of the agency and on the agency's role in the legislative process."

    While the former directors acknowledged that CBO's "nonpartisan and high-quality analysis cannot always generate accurate estimates," they defended the agency's methods, writing, CBO's "approach produces consistent comparisons of competing legislative proposals and unbiased projections of the impact of policy changes."

    The former directors urged Congress to continue to consider CBO scores as lawmakers draft new legislation. "In sum, relying on CBO's estimates in the legislative process has served the Congress — and the American people — very well during the past four decades," they wrote, adding, "As the House and Senate consider potential policy changes this year and in the years ahead, we urge you to maintain and respect the Congress's decades-long reliance on CBO's estimates in developing and scoring bills" (Ramsey, Business Insider, 7/21; Golshan, Vox, 7/21; Ehrenfreund, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 7/21; Bowden, The Hill, 7/20; Armour, Wall Street Journal, 7/21).

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