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The Battle Between Republicans and the CBO Is Heating Up

In recent weeks, the Congressional Budget Office has continued to project that the various Affordable Care Act repeal-and-replace bills produced by the GOP would lead to dramatic declines in the number of Americans with health insurance. The White House (along with some Republican politicians outside the administration) has, in turn, spent a lot of time attacking the credibility of the CBO, the non-partisan agency tasked with estimating the effects of legislation. Two administration officials wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post earlier this month describing the CBO's methodology as "fundamentally flawed"; the White House even produced a video attacking the agency.

On Friday, the CBO—or at least every single former director of the CBO—responded.

In a letter addressed to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), the eight economists (who served under both Republican and Democratic presidents) expressed their "strong objection to recent attacks on the integrity and professionalism of the agency and on the agency's role in the legislative process." The CBO may not be perfect, the former directors say, but it's the best we've got:

CBO's approach produces consistent comparisons of competing legislative proposals and unbiased projections of the impact of policy changes. Unfortunately, even nonpartisan and high-quality analysis cannot always generate accurate estimates. Policy changes are often complex, the economy is dynamic and defies precise prediction, and many policies are modified over time. However, such analysis does generate estimates that are more accurate, on average, than estimates or guesses by people who are not objective and not as well informed as CBO's analysts.

If the recent past is any indication, the letter is unlikely to prove persuasive.