CBO Director Says He ‘Didn’t Feel A Great Deal Of Political Pressure’ Analyzing Health Reform Bill

This morning, during an appearance on C-Span’s Washington Journal, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) director Douglas Elmendorf dismissed claims that his office was pressured to produce politically favorable scores of the health care law. Responding to a caller’s concerns, Elmendorf said, “the truth is I didn’t feel a great deal of political pressure as we analyzed the health legislation”:

ELMENDORF: We felt a lot of time pressure and we were very careful to resist that in the sense that we didn’t rush out numbers that we were not satisfied with and we were often being pushed to move more rapidly. We worked very hard but we insisted that we would do the analysis in a way we thought was right and we could stand behind and we did. There are many who were hoping for different outcomes of our analysis. There were people who thought that our analysis wasn’t right. We received criticisms of that, the cost of the insurance expansions in the legislation would with be more expensive than we expected. We received criticism that the savings through reforms in Medicare would be much larger than we expected. We think on both those issues and others that our estimates were in the middle of the distribution of possible outcomes.

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One of the CBO’s most vocal critics was Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who attempted to dismiss the CBO scoring by suggesting that Democrats had bamboozled the agency with budget gimmicks and that the true cost of the bill was much higher. “These CBO numbers don’t add up when you actually look at the real world, massive deficits, massive debt. And so the Speaker can write a bill, that is full of smoke and mirrors and the CBO can give you the answer you want, but that’s still not based on the real world,” Ryan told Fox News in March.

“I think that one important point to emphasize is that what we produced an estimate of was the legislation as written,” Elmendorf responded today. “There are another set of concerns that the legislation won’t be implemented over time in the way it is written down.” “It is your job to estimate the legislation and people who think it will be changed later those proposal will be estimated by the Congressional Budget Office in terms of their effect and effect on health insurance,” he explained.