President Trump Holds Meeting On Healthcare
Donald Trump attends a meeting on healthcare in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on March 13, 2017. Michael Reynolds—Getty Images

Republicans Are Bashing Their Own Accountants. They Didn’t Always Feel That Way

Mar 13, 2017

Before the Congressional Budget Office even released its analysis of the costs of the Republican healthcare bill, the GOP was lining up to dismiss the numbers as inaccurate or irrelevant.

But Republican lawmakers didn’t always feel that way about the CBO, which functions as Congress’ in-house accountants on legislation. In fact, they've often praised its efforts.

One reason for the change: The agency is expected to give poor marks to the GOP bill on both long-term cost and the number of people who will be insured under it.

It's true, as many critics noted, that the CBO overestimated enrollment under the Affordable Care Act, though a 2015 report found that it was closer than four other major analyses of that law.

Here's a look at what some key players have said in the past.

• White House spokesman Sean Spicer argued that the CBO's 2010 analysis of the Affordable Care Act was off. "If you're looking to the CBO for accuracy, you're looking in the wrong place," he said. But as the New York Times noted, Spicer has cited the agency's work in the past.

• Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price similarly criticized the CBO analysis of Obamacare. "They've been woefully underperforming when it comes to evaluating health systems," he said. But as a member of Congress, he praised the agency's "professionalism, objectivity, and nonpartisanship."

• President Trump has previously used the agency's estimates to criticize President Obama and Democratic legislation at least 13 times, including its numbers on the stimulus bill, the health care law and the economy.

There is historical precedent for the CBO flip-flopping, too. The Times reports that President Reagan called its estimates "phony" when the agency raised flags about his tax cuts, but Republicans were giddy when the body's analysis of President Clinton's healthcare plan signaled trouble in the 1990s.

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