OMB’s Mulvaney Hits CBO, Ex-Directors Hit Back

It may be Washington’s most intractable, wonkiest ongoing dispute between green eyeshade types.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney slammed the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office for its analysis of the Republican health-care bill. Then former CBO directors fired back.


Mulvaney’s comments came in an interview with the Washington Examiner May 31. The CBO recently said the House bill to partially repeal the Affordable Care Act would result in 23 million fewer insured Americans by 2027, a view Republicans generally dispute as incorrect without saying why.

"At some point, you've got to ask yourself, has the day of the CBO come and gone?" Mulvaney told the Examiner. "How much power do we give to the CBO under the 1974 Budget Act? We're hearing now that the person in charge of the Affordable Health Care Act methodology is an alum of the Hillarycare program in the 1990s who was brought in by Democrats to score the ACA."

"If the same person is doing the score of undoing Obamacare who did the scoring of Obamacare in the first place, my guess is that there is probably some sort of bias in favor of a government mandate," Mulvaney said.

Mulvaney was referring to Holly Harvey, one of two deputies in the Budget Analysis Division. Between stints working for CBO between 1986 and 1991 and from 2007 to the present, she worked for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Department of Health and Human Services and the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

Her boss, Keith Hall, the current director of the CBO, has worked for the International Trade Commission, the libertarian Mercatus Center at George Mason University and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While the CBO had no official response to Mulvaney’s comments, two former directors—one a Democrat and the other a Republican—shot back.

Peter Orszag, who headed the CBO and then jumped to become President Barack Obama’s first OMB director, told Politico’s PULSE newsletter Mulvaney’s comments were surprising given accusations the OMB double-counted revenue associated with the administration’s tax overhaul, to the tune of $2 trillion.


“Perhaps it would make more sense for OMB to focus on its mission and allow CBO to continue to perform its distinct mission?” he said.

Doug Holtz-Eakin, Orszag’s predecessor at the CBO, was more direct. In a tweet, Holtz-Eakin, a senior economist in the George W. Bush White House and adviser to Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said Mulvaney’s comments were “a disgrace, reflect more poorly on him than CBO, and show budget ignorance. Should apologize.”