Republican hypocrisy on display: Senators extol federal agency they used to hate

The GOP loves to criticize the CBO — unless they release a report that supports their policies

Published October 26, 2017 4:57AM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Once again, a key Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on a health care bill is out. Although this time — unusual in 2017 — Republican senators are actually praising the report and extolling the virtues of the federal office.

Congressional GOP members have spent much of this year criticizing the Congressional Budget Office, suggesting that their methodology was "flawed" and that we needed a separate organization to "compete" with the bipartisan organization. In May, when the CBO issued a report predicting that the GOP's American Health Care Act would cause 23 million to lose insurance, GOP leaders attacked the office's integrity. "Republicans are attacking the budget office's professionalism, claiming that the nonpartisan agency, whose leaders serve at the command of the House's and Senate's Republican leaders, cannot be trusted," wrote Matthew Sheffield in Salon at the time. Sheffield quoted a number of Republican leaders who were dismissive:

“The CBO’s crazy,” Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., told HuffPost on Thursday. “I said for weeks I had zero confidence in the CBO. You would never hire them to manage your retirement plan, so it came out exactly what I expected it to be.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif. “The CBO is very good at crunching budget numbers,” he told HuffPost reporter Matt Fuller. “It has demonstrated it doesn’t have the first clue about how [health care] markets work.”

[. . .] “If you are serious about real health reform, you must abolish the Congressional Budget Office because it lies,” Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and GOP presidential candidate, said in 2011 at a debate sponsored by a conservative group.

It turns out that the same GOP leaders sure will promote the organization's findings if it benefits them.

The CBO report on the bipartisan Alexander-Murray bill intended to stabilize Obamacare insurance markets concluded that the bill would decrease the deficit, keep Americans insured and not influence premiums in 2018. House Republicans and Trump oppose the bill, though it is gaining momentum in the Senate.

“This nonpartisan analysis shows that our bill provides savings and ensures that funding two years of cost-sharing payments will benefit taxpayers and low-income Americans, not insurance companies," Alexander and Murray said in a joint statement.

“Last week, an unusually large group of cosponsors—12 Republican and 12 Democratic United States Senators—released this legislation, which was based on four hearings in the Senate’s health committee plus four meetings for senators not on the committee," they continued. "All in all, 60 senators participated in the process, and the sooner Congress and the president act, the better."

When the CBO released reports earlier this year that Republican plans to "repeal and replace" would be disastrous, the White House put out an op-ed saying the methodology of the organization was "fundamentally flawed."

Today, Republicans came forward to use the report to support the passing of the Alexander-Murray bill.

By Jarrett Lyons

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