President Trump's White House released an online video criticizing Congress's nonpartisan budgetary analysts on Wednesday afternoon, arguing the agency's forecasts on health care were unreliable.
The video escalates a developing conflict between the nonpartisan analytical body and the Republican Party over the basic mathematics underlying the GOP effort to undo the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Political criticism of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the subject of Wednesday's video, has long been part of the debate in Washington, but the White House's post on Twitter — which resembles a digital advertisement for a political campaign — suggests a broader, concerted effort to sway public opinion against the agency.
“This is an administration with a different style,” said Alice Rivlin, a former CBO director.
Administration officials have been forthright about their frustrations with CBO's unflattering analysis of Republican legislative proposals in recent months, pointing to the agency's shortcomings in predicting the consequences of Obamacare as evidence CBO's methods are flawed.
CBO has projected that roughly 22 million more Americans would go without insurance after a decade if the Senate's current version of the bill to undo Obamacare became law. Republicans in the House passed a similar bill in May.
A news release from the Department of Health and Human Services last month also included the talking point about CBO's predictions on the number of people who would gain coverage under Obamacare.
Mick Mulvaney, Trump's budget director, said in May that the CBO analysts responsible for evaluating the Republican proposals were working on behalf of Democrats.
“At some point, you've got to ask yourself, 'Has the day of the CBO come and gone?' " Mulvaney said.
CBO did underestimate the number of people who would remain uninsured under Obamacare. At the same time, CBO's initial estimates exaggerated the costs of the law.
Independent analysts say that while the CBO is sometimes mistaken, the agency's analyses do not betray any partisan bias, and that any effort to forecast the effects of complex legislation that affects one of the economy's most important sectors is inherently prone to error.
Even some conservative experts felt Mulvaney had gone too far. Michael Strain, an economist at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, said Mulvaney's comments were “really inappropriate, and frankly absurd” in an interview with The Washington Post last month.
“I mean, come on,” Strain said at the time. “The work is done with, you know, the utmost integrity. It is nonpartisan, and the analyses are sound and reasonable.”
Rivlin said: “Unfortunately, I think it goes with the spirit of today’s debate over important, difficult issues like health care. There’s a lot of allegation and counter-allegation, and not a good deal of thoughtful analysis and questioning.”
About an hour after its release on Wednesday, the original video had been deleted from Twitter and replaced with a new version.
The update corrected an error in the original version, in which the word “inaccurately” was misspelled.