Politics

Paul Ryan Defends CBO Role as Referee

Speaker makes comments one day after White House swipe

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan is defending CBO Director Keith Hall and his office amid White House criticism of the nonpartisan agency. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One day after the White House criticized the Congressional Budget Office as an inaccurate arbiter, amid a heated debate over the effects of the Republicans’ plans to change the health insurance system, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan is defending the nonpartisan office. 

“Yeah, he’s actually a Republican appointee. If I’m not mistaken, Tom Price appointed him,” Ryan said Tuesday morning when asked whether he had full confidence in CBO Director Keith Hall. Price, the secretary of Health and Human Services and a key advocate of GOP efforts to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law, was previously the House Budget Committee chairman. 

“It is important that we have a scorekeeper. We can always complain about the nature of the score,” Ryan said, adding, “Having said that, it’s important that we have a referee.”

The speaker’s comments came one day after the CBO issued a report that said the Senate Republican health care bill would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 22 million over a decade to 49 million. The estimate likely will increase the challenges for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in trying to pass the bill. The Kentucky Republican announced Tuesday that a vote on the measure will not take place before the July Fourth recess.

In comparison, the version the House passed on May 4 would increase the uninsured population by 23 million over a decade, the CBO said last month. The Senate bill would save $321 billion over a decade, more than the House bill’s $119 billion reported by the CBO last month.

While Republicans were eager to trumpet the deficit savings, they steered away from the CBO estimates of people who would lose their health insurance. 

Not so the White House, which issued a statement disparaging the CBO.

“The CBO has consistently proven it cannot accurately predict how healthcare legislation will impact insurance coverage. This history of inaccuracy, as demonstrated by its flawed report on coverage, premiums, and predicted deficit arising out of Obamacare, reminds us that its analysis must not be trusted blindly. In 2013, the CBO estimated that 24 million people would have coverage under Obamacare by 2016. It was off by an astounding 13 million people — more than half — as less than 11 million were actually covered. Then, CBO estimated that 30 million fewer people would be uninsured in 2016, but then it had to reduce its estimate to 22 million, further illustrating its inability to present reliable healthcare predictions,” the White House said in a statement Monday after the CBO released its estimate of the Senate bill. 

Kellie Mejdrich contributed to this story.

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