Republicans expressed caution at the Congressional Budget Office score of the President Donald Trump-backed Affordable Care Act replacement plan on Monday, suggesting the nonpartisan office’s estimates are somewhat unreliable.
After the CBO released its report, which detailed massive reductions to the federal deficit along with tens of millions in lost insurance for Americans, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said that while the CBO is the official scorecard, “they’ve been wrong before,” adding:
“So this is their initial pass on it and I’m sure that gives us a target of what we need to work on.”
“The CBO score is never quite right,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told reporters. “So there’s plenty of reason to doubt it but who knows what direction is not right.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, “We like the CBO when they agree with us. When they don’t, they’re a bunch of losers.”
Graham also cautioned that because much of the report is so devastating, it should still be examined thoroughly:
“But let’s say the CBO is half-right. That should be cause for concern. So, rather than attacking the CBO as the exclusive way of moving forward, I would think the prudent thing for the party to do is to look at the CBO report and see if we can address some of the concerns raised.”
“The good news is, it lowers premium costs and helps the deficit,” Graham added. “But, at the end of the day, we should pause and try to improve the product in light of the CBO analysis, rather than just rejecting it.”
On the other side of the aisle, the reaction to attempts to discredit the CBO score was met with general anger and a theme that the nonpartisan office is beyond reproach.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a press conference Monday afternoon that the report “is one that Republicans have always demanded of us when we had the majority,” and noted that GOP doubts are unfounded.
“So as I say, they’re torn. Some of them are trying to pin a rose on this report and make it sound like it’s a good thing and the others of them are trying to discredit the CBO. But it’s completely wrong.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the Republicans and the Trump administration’s doubts about the CBO are part of a larger pattern.
“When they hear something they don’t like, they label it a lie. CBO is virtually unassailable,” he said. “Everyone — Democrats and Republicans — whether it be George Bush, Barack Obama or anyone else has gone along with CBO.”
And the appointment of Keith Hall, a former economic staffer under President George W. Bush, as CBO Director by Republican leaders in 2015 is one of the Democrats’ top selling points on the validity of the report.
“[Republicans] appointed this person — he was supposed to be a conservative person,” Schumer said. “Unfortunately for the Republicans, he’s an honest person and they won’t be able to discredit this. This report is gonna resound from one end of American to the other.”
Haley Byrd contributed to this report.