The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is reflected in a puddle on a rainy morning in Washington.
Later today, Senate Republican leaders will unveil the latest iteration of their regressive health care plan, and we’ll take a closer look at its details once it’s released. In the meantime, however, proponents of the GOP’s approach are hard at work – trying to tear down the Congressional Budget Office’s credibility.
If all goes according to plan, the Republican bill will be unveiled today; it will receive a CBO score on Monday; and then the GOP-led Senate will vote on the proposal soon after. Of course, if that plan sounds familiar, it’s because this is identical to the schedule created a few weeks ago by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) – a schedule that was derailed when the Congressional Budget Office found that the GOP legislation would take health care benefits from 22 million Americans.
This time around, Republicans are investing more energy in trying to convince the relevant players that the CBO’s numbers are not to be trusted. The Huffington Post explained yesterday:
The White House attempted to discredit the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday, releasing a video that questions the accuracy of the agency’s previous projections on health insurance coverage under Obamacare.
Issued as a heated health care debate continues on Capitol Hill, the administration seems to be arguing that because CBO estimates have been off before, there is no reason to trust its recent reports predicting that a Republican-led effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act would have devastating effects.
But just 10 seconds into the video, the White House instead managed to strain its credibility with a misspelling of the word “inaccurately.”
Now, I’m aware of the dangers of throwing rocks in a glass house. I’ve been known to publish a few typos of my own from time to time, so I’m generally cautious about criticizing – or worse, mocking – others’ typographical missteps.
Then again, my blog posts are not official White House materials, created to deceive the public about millions of Americans’ health security.
Of course, while the typo was probably embarrassing for Team Trump, there are two broader angles to this that are worth keeping in mind.
The first is that the White House is wrong on the substance. Vox had a good report noting that the specific claims Trump World and its allies are making in the hopes of discrediting the Congressional Budget Office invariably fall apart under scrutiny and appear designed to deliberately fool people who don’t know better. Ironically, members of the president’s team, while trying to undermine the CBO’s credibility, are actually undermining their own.
The second is the broader offensive against neutral sources of information. If the right wants to argue that the Congressional Budget Office isn’t perfect, fine. It’s run by a Republican director, who received an enthusiastic endorsement from HHS Secretary Tom Price, but no one argues that it’s analyses are always flawless. It makes projections based on available information, some of which are sometimes off.
But that’s not the point the White House is trying to drive home. Rather, Trump World sees the CBO as an impediment to its political goals, so it’s desperately trying to make the case to anyone who’ll listen that when the Congressional Budget Office publishes analyses that cast Republican bills in an unflattering light, the appropriate response is to pretend that information doesn’t exist.
In Trump’s West Wing, independent sources of information are effectively an enemy to be preemptively attacked before they cause trouble. It’s why the president and his aides attack news organizations with such vigor, as well as intelligence agencies, climate scientists, pollsters, and those who estimate crowd sizes at inaugural festivities.
The fact remains, however, that the problem with the GOP’s health care gambit isn’t the Congressional Budget Office; it’s the proposal itself.