White House budget chief apologizes to CBO analyst
White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney on Friday apologized to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyst, saying his criticism of the group should have targeted the director.
“It is the Director who bears the ultimate responsibility for reports delivered by the non-partisan organization,” Mulvaney, the head of the Office of Management and Budget, said in a statement.
Mulvaney had come under fire from Democrats and several former CBO directors after suggesting earlier in the week that the CBO’s top health analyst, Holly Harvey, held political biases reflected in the group’s reports.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), ranking member of the House Budget Committee, had been particularly critical, accusing Mulvaney of “impugning the integrity of a public servant” and asking for an apology.
Mulvaney, a former South Carolina Republican congressman and a friend of Yarmuth’s, agreed.
“John is correct. And for that I’d like to apologize,” he said Friday. “Within any organization, the buck should stop at the top.”
Several former CBO directors had criticized Mulvaney’s comments including Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who served as an adviser on Sen. John McCain’s 2008 GOP presidential campaign. Holtz-Eakin wrote in a tweet this week that Mulvaney’s words “are a disgrace, reflect more poorly on him than CBO, and show budget ignorance. Should apologize.”
Mulvaney did not name CBO Director Keith Hall, a conservative labor economist who headed the White House Council of Economic Advisers under former President George W. Bush.
In 2015, Hall has tapped to head the CBO by Republican leaders, including former Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.), who is now President Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary.
Mulvaney and Republicans have been particularly critical of the CBO after the group concluded that the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal bill would erode insurance coverage for 23 million people over a decade, relative to current law.
The White House budget chief decried that prediction this week with suggestions that Harvey, who previously worked in the Clinton administration, was an unreliable scorekeeper.
“If the same person is doing the score of undoing ObamaCare who did the scoring of ObamaCare in the first place, my guess is that there is probably some sort of bias in favor of a government mandate,” he told The Washington Examiner on Wednesday.
Yarmuth and Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip, both condemned the comments as an unfair attack on a federal official. Hoyer portrayed the episode as indicative of a larger trend within the Trump White House.
“When Trump Administration officials either disagree with or do not understand the impacts of their own policies, they prefer to attack the nonpartisan analysts who are doing their jobs with integrity and expertise,” he said.
Mulvaney, while apologizing to Harvey, did not back away from his broader criticism of the CBO. He and other Republicans have noted that Congress’s official scorekeeper had been well off the mark in analyzing ObamaCare in 2010, predicting that 23 million people would obtain coverage under the law’s insurance exchanges by 2016. The actual number was less than 11 million.
Given past inaccuracies, Mulvaney argued, Republicans have every right to doubt the CBO’s score of the GOP’s American Health Care Act (AHCA).
“It should be and is fair to challenge the results that were assumed by the concealed model the CBO used to ‘score’ the most recent version of the House AHCA bill,” he said.
“This is especially true when the CBO has exhibited a history of flawed analysis and inaccurate findings. The nature of some of its recent miscalculations –– in favor of the original Affordable Care Act in particular –– raise valid questions about potential bias in the current review of the AHCA.”
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