U.S. Representative Mark Meadows, chair of the Freedom Caucus and representative of North Carolina's Eleventh Congressional District, wants to make big changes to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office—the federal agency that has consistently projected that Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare would leave more than twenty million Americans in the cold.
In an amendment
introduced Monday, Meadows proposes slashing eighty-nine positions from the agency's Budget Analysis Division, which is responsible for estimating the costs associated with bills introduced in Congress. The elimination of those positions would result in a $15 million funding cut and would effectively abolish the division. Its work would be transferred to another division, where employees would be required to aggregate and score data compiled by four think tanks: the conservative Heritage Foundation, the Koch-funded American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institute, and the left-leaning Urban Institute.
What this essentially means is that the CBO would simply regurgitate data from third-party groups, some of which have political agendas, rather than analyze and score the impact of legislation on its own.
It's useful to put the proposal in context. It comes on the heels of a series of estimates that have effectively doomed the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, predicting insurance losses for tens of millions of Americans. In response to the CBO's dire projections, Republican critics have gone on the offensive, attacking the agency's analysis and performance.
"The CBO's reputation among the public and the media may be strong, but its track record in providing accurate estimates to Congress leaves much to be desired," Meadows and Freedom Caucus founder Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, groused
in a Washington Examiner
editorial. "The GPS is right quite often. But when it mistakes a boat launch ramp for a road and tells you to ‘turn left here,’ you have to stop and take a look at reality before blindly following the command and turning into a lake."
It's an approach we're seeing from GOP allies on matters ranging from health care to the press: if you don't like the facts you hear, just say they're not true.
Indeed, the attacks on the agency were so concerning they compelled the eight former CBO directors to sign an open letter
to congressional leaders.
"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," they wrote. "CBO began serving the Congress in 1975. Over the past 42 years
CBO has been firmly committed to providing nonpartisan and high-quality analysis — and that commitment remains as strong and effective today as it has been in the past. Because CBO works for the Congress, and only the Congress, the agency’s analysis addresses the unique needs of legislators."