WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Conservative Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are seeking to add an amendment this week to spending legislation that would slash the number of staff at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The budget research office, known as the CBO, has drawn recent Republican criticism, including from the White House, after it concluded that Republican proposals to replace Obamacare would lead to 23 million more Americans being uninsured if they became law.
Representative Mark Meadows, head of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said on Monday his colleague Morgan Griffith has offered an amendment to an appropriations bill the House is expected to take up this week that would cut the CBO’s staff of 235 by 89 employees, saving about $15 million.
“They ought to be aggregators,” Meadows said of the CBO at a National Press Club lunch. “There’s plenty of think tanks that are out there. We ought to take a score from Heritage, from AEI (American Enterprise Institute), from Brookings, from the Urban Institute and bring them together for a composite score.”
The Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank based in Washington, as is the American Enterprise Institute. The Brookings Institution and Urban Institute are liberal-leaning think tanks based in Washington.
The CBO is one of a handful of analysis units of Congress whose employees strive for political impartiality, providing dependable and neutral information that lawmakers can use when making often complex budget, tax and other decisions. Its staff includes economists, public policy analysts, lawyers and editors.
In May, after Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney called the CBO’s healthcare analysis “absurd” and questioned its continued existence, Democrats defended the office, saying Republican attacks were irresponsible.
“When Trump administration officials either disagree with or do not understand the impacts of their own policies, they prefer to attack the nonpartisan analysts who are doing their jobs with integrity and expertise,” Representative Steny Hoyer, a Democratic House leader, said at the time.
The CBO was created in 1974 during a spending dispute between the Democratic-controlled Congress and Republican President Richard Nixon after he withheld funds for government programs that did not support his political positions.
Reporting By Amanda Becker; Editing by Bill Trott