capitol hill file
GOP attacking CBO over health care bill
02:56 - Source: CNN

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"If you're looking to the CBO for accuracy, you're looking in the wrong place," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said

House Republicans are moving the bill through committee Wednesday

Washington CNN  — 

Republicans don’t have a CBO score yet on their health care bill, but they’re already taking shots at the CBO.

Lawmakers of all stripes are anxiously waiting for the nonpartisan and highly respected Congressional Budget Office to issue its report of the GOP’s Obamacare replacement bill, which will detail how much the measure will cost and how many millions of people stand to lose health coverage.

But anticipating a report that isn’t favorable to Republicans, the White House and GOP lawmakers are actively looking to delegitimize the agency’s credibility.

“If you’re looking to the CBO for accuracy, you’re looking in the wrong place,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.

The No. 3 House Republican, Majority Whip Steve Scalise, said Wednesday he doesn’t want to let “unelected bureaucrats in Washington” slow down the Republican promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“We’re not going to wait,” Scalise said.

CBO’s report, or “score,” is expected Monday, but two House committees are voting on the Republican health care bill Wednesday, much to Democrats’ frustration.

“You’re fearful that the CBO will provide answers to questions that you don’t like. So essentially, you want essentially a sneak attack on this issue before the public hears and we hear from CBO,” Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Michigan, said during the Ways and Means Committee markup.

“To consider a bill of this magnitude without a CBO score is not only puzzling and concerning, but also irresponsible,” said Rep. Richard Neal, D-Massachusetts.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Democrat from California, said after Republicans had spent seven years “harping” on replacing Obamacare, you’d think they would wait “a couple weeks for the CBO” to score their ideas before proceeding to a vote.

But Republicans say the agency hasn’t always been on the mark, particularly when it comes to health care and Obamacare.

The CBO is nonpartisan, but Republicans appointed the current director, Keith Hall, in 2015.

At the time, then-House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price – now a member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet working on replacing Obamacare – praised Hall.

“Keith Hall will bring an impressive level of economic expertise and experience to the Congressional Budget Office,” Price said in a statement. “His vast understanding of economic and labor market policy will be invaluable to the work of CBO and the important roll it will continue to play as Congress seeks to enact policies that support a healthy and growing economy.”

As part of their attacks, Republicans say CBO’s projection from 2009 on the future impact of the Obamacare bill was off.

“The Congressional Budget Office in their own projections said 21 million people would be covered under the Affordable Care Act by the year 2016. That number in fact was 10 million so the Congressional Budget Office score while useful. … (it) is hardly the final word on the issue,” said Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas.

“I think CBO is a great organization that is consistently inconsistent with the actual results of a 10-year window because life changes so quickly so I don’t put that much weight on a CBO score,” Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina said.

But criticism of the agency doesn’t mean Republicans don’t want to see the results.

“We’re all God’s children, we all want a CBO score,” Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, told the Energy and Commerce panel Wednesday.

health care coverage keeping repealing changing graphic

CNN’s MJ Lee and Phil Mattingly contributed to this report.