House GOP Targets Non-Partisan CBO For Staffing And Funding Cuts

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
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A new front has opened in Republican’s war on the Congressional Budget Office—the non-partisan agency currently run by a conservative Republican appointee that crunches the numbers on major legislation like the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

In a speech at the National Press Club on Monday, Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) announced that another member of the hardline conservative group will attempt to shoehorn an amendment into the current federal budget negotiation that would strip the Congressional Budget Office of 15 million dollars in funding and 89 of its staff members.

“For the first time in 35-plus years, there will be a rule that will be used this week called the Holman Rule,” Meadows said. “It gives us the tool to actually go in and cut the funding without cutting an entire agency.”

Meadows justified pushing for these cuts  by repeating the increasingly common and incorrect Republican line of attack that the CBO is unreliable—a drumbeat that has grown so loud that every single past CBO director, Republican and Democratic, recently wrote an open letter to Congress pleading with them to cut it out.

“They’re the one group that makes a weatherman’s 10-day forecast look accurate,” quipped Meadows on Monday. “We believe we needed to address it.”

Meadows plan to “address” the CBO’s inaccuracy would be to bar them from conducting any independent analyses whatsoever. Instead, he suggested, they should simply mix together the studies of various partisan and corporate-funded think tanks.

“They ought to be aggregators,” he said. “We ought to take a score from Heritage, from AEI, from Brookings, from the Urban Institute and bring them together for a composite score that would represent a wide swath of their abilities. We think that’s a pragmatic way to rely on the private sector and let Congress rely on a score that’s accurate.”

Meadows boasted Monday that the Holman rule has not been used for decades, but the Freedom Caucus was dedicated to bringing it back. In fact, the Caucus pushed the House to vote earlier this year to officially reinstate it. Among other provisions, the rule allows Congress to target specific federal employees and cut their salaries, raising fears it could be used for partisan retaliation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.
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