Mnuchin, Van Hollen clash over Congressional Budget Office

Mnuchin, Van Hollen clash over Congressional Budget Office
© Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) exchanged tough words Wednesday over the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the nonpartisan scoring agency that has become a punching bag for the Trump administration.

In response to Mnuchin’s assertion that the Trump administration’s budget proposal balanced at the end of a decade, Van Hollen pointed to the CBO score, which found that deficits would remain as high as 3 percent of gross domestic product.

“I hadn’t planned to say anything about the overall budget, but you made the statement that the Trump administration budget balanced in 10 years. I think it’s important that the public and members know that the CBO looked at that and said that just isn’t so, and you were way off,” Van Hollen said.

Mnuchin responded that the CBO simply believed in lower economic growth than the administration, at which point a frustrated Van Hollen interrupted.

“Mr. Secretary, it’s not a question of belief, it’s a question of reasonable projections,” Van Hollen said. “Your projections are out of line with the projections of every institution in our country and overseas with respect to growth rates.”

Mnuchin said they would have to agree to disagree, and noted that the Obama administration had higher growth projections than the Trump administration. Those projections, however, were significantly closer to the CBO’s estimates at the time.

Mnuchin and other members of the administration have frequently derided the CBO, which is currently headed by a Republican.

The CBO has delivered unwelcome news for the administration's agenda, such as its projection that the GOP healthcare proposals would reduce the number of people with insurance by millions.

The House will consider two controversial amendments in the coming days that would cut funds from the CBO.

"You don’t beat up the referee just because you don’t like the score," warned Maya MacGuineas, president of the fiscally conservative Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

"The Congressional Budget Office serves an invaluable function providing Congress with solid, nonpartisan analysis of the costs and tradeoffs of thousands of different proposed policies. While estimates of complex legislation are inherently uncertain and no estimates will be perfect, the estimates produced by CBO are based on objective analysis of evidence and data without regard to partisan interests," she added.