WASHINGTON — The White House doubled down Tuesday on its criticism of the Congressional Budget Office in the wake of estimates the nonpartisan agency produced on the House Republicans’ health care bill endorsed by President Donald Trump.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said CBO estimates on insurance coverage have been “consistently wrong” in the past, though he lauded its projection that the American Health Care Act would reduce the deficit.
Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, took a jab at the CBO with a sarcastic reference to the cold, snowy weather.
“According to the Congressional Budget Office, it’s sunny and 74 outside,” he told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
The CBO projected Monday that the Obamacare-replacement plan championed by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would, by 2026, lower the number of Americans with health insurance by 24 million while reducing the federal deficit by $337 billion.
Democrats seized on what they saw as confirmation that the blueprint by Ryan and Trump would cost Americans their coverage, while some moderate House Republicans, rattled by the CBO report, began backing away for the same reason.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the CBO’s findings a “surprisingly scathing score.”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) tweeted that she would vote against the bill in its current form, saying many will lose coverage and there will be fewer funds for the elderly and poor.
Ryan has said fewer people would be covered because the bill doesn’t mandate that Americans buy insurance, leaving them with a choice that Obamacare did not and freeing up funds to reduce the deficit.
In response to White House criticism, a CBO spokeswoman pointed Tuesday to a section of the scoring that referred to “uncertainty surrounding the estimates.” The document said the CBO had considered the hard-to-predict responses of states, insurers and other parties to be affected by the legislation as well as the “inexact” projections under Obamacare that may inform the House GOP bill estimates.
Trump was set to speak by phone with Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) about the plan, which Spicer said was the best “vehicle” for repealing and replacing Obamacare.
Spicer said the CBO projections do not factor in the second and third phases that would, in part, offer tax credits to increase competition among insurers and drive prices down for enrollees.
“How are they supposed to take into account something that doesn’t yet exist?” a reporter asked him.
“That’s a question for the House to answer,” Spicer said.
Ryan’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment on when details of the second and third parts of the three-pronged plan would be released.
Spicer also defended the White House’s hesitation to embrace the bill to the extent of calling it “Trumpcare,” noting that former President Barack Obama initially did not want the Affordable Care Act named for him.
“I don’t think this is about labels and names; this is about getting the job done,” the press secretary said.
On the Senate floor, Schumer said, “President Trump slapped his name on buildings, ties, steaks, hotels and golf clubs, but not on this bill. If it’s so good, why doesn’t any Republican want to put their name on it?”
Also Tuesday, Spicer said he was “extremely confident” there would be evidence to substantiate Trump’s explosive allegation earlier this month that Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower.
The Department of Justice has asked for an extension to produce any papers backing up the claim to the House Intelligence Committee, which folded the allegations into its investigation of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.
The committee’s leaders have scheduled a news conference for Wednesday to discuss their probe.