MURPHY TO CBO: REPUBLICANS ARE DENYING AMERICAN PUBLIC A FAIR, INDEPENDENT ANALYSIS OF SECRET HEALTH CARE BILL

WASHINGTON – Just one day after traveling to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for the secret health care repeal bill that Senate Republicans are trying to force through Congress, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) expressed serious concern about Senate Republicans forcing the CBO to keep the bill confidential and for denying the American public a fair, independent analysis of the bill. During a U.S. Senate Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee hearing with Dr. Keith Hall, Director of CBO, Murphy emphasized the importance of CBO’s nonpartisan analysis of legislation and warned that Senate Republicans are compromising CBO’s independence by forcing the agency to keep the bill confidential. Murphy, the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee that funds CBO, has lambasted Congressional Republicans for shutting Connecticut residents out of the bill-writing process, and for refusing to allow any hearings, debates, or amendments on the bill.

“We don’t just rely on CBO—our constituents rely on CBO. The only way that we’re able to have a real, meaningful debate in this country about the impact of legislation that affects people’s lives is because of the nonpartisan analysis that CBO provides us. The House health care bill, which was rammed through with almost no public debate, with no time for any legislator to read that legislation, was done so without a CBO score. And so hundreds of members of Congress voted on a piece of legislation that reorders one fifth of the American economy, that as we eventually found out, strips health care from up to 23 million people without a nonpartisan analysis,” Murphy said.

“We are headed towards a potential debate and vote on a piece of legislation next week that’s equally sweeping that none of us have seen—that theoretically CBO is working on today, but may release their analysis with only a handful of hours or days prior to the vote,” Murphy continued. “For those of us who believe in CBO, I think there is a deliberate campaign to try to reduce its relevance. I just think that [CBO is] being used by the Republican majority for political purposes and I think it compromises [CBO’s] independence. We should be investing in CBO’s relevance by demanding that on major pieces of legislation, we see a CBO score before we vote.”

The GOP’s secret health care repeal bill would reorder one-fifth to one-sixth of the American economy and force millions of people to lose their health insurance. Last month, the nonpartisan CBO released an updated analysis of Trumpcare, making clear that the bill would raise costs and worsen care to pay for huge tax cuts for the wealthy. Earlier this year, Murphy led 17 senators in demanding that Senate Republican leadership conduct an equally transparent and thorough deliberative process on Trumpcare as was conducted in drafting and passing the Affordable Care Act in 2009. The senators contrasted the dozens of bipartisan meetings and hearings, and more than 160 hours of floor debate, with the unprecedented steps that Congressional Republicans are currently taking to force Trumpcare through Congress. 

Highlights of Murphy’s remarks are below:

“I’m really glad to have Dr. Hall here today. I got to visit with him yesterday at GAO – excuse me, CBO – and it’s really important to have CBO here today. I’ll just express my deep concern about the actions of the majority party in the House and the Senate with respect to the continued relevance and independence of the Congressional Budget Office. 

“We don’t just rely on CBO—our constituents rely on CBO. The only way that we’re able to have a real, meaningful debate in this country about the impact of legislation that affects people’s lives is because of the nonpartisan analysis that CBO provides us. The House health care bill, which was rammed through with almost no public debate, with no time for any legislator to read that legislation, was done so without a CBO score. And so hundreds of Members of Congress voted on a piece of legislation that reorders one fifth of the American economy, that as we eventually found out, strips health care from up to 23 million people without a nonpartisan analysis. And for those of us who believe in CBO, I think there is a deliberate campaign to try to reduce its relevance, because why have CBO if you are not going to ask it to give its opinion on a piece of legislation that is that big and that sweeping ahead of the vote.

“Similarly, we are headed towards a potential debate and vote on a piece of legislation next week that’s equally sweeping that none of us have seen—that theoretically CBO is working on today but may release their analysis with only a handful of hours or days prior to the vote. That is, if the Senate majority decides to wait for their analysis before the vote. In addition, leading up to CBO’s analysis of the House bill, there were some very sharp attacks on CBO from Members of Congress—attacks that got a little bit too personal at times. We should be investing in CBO’s relevance by demanding that on major pieces of legislation, we see a CBO score before we vote. And we should refrain from compromising CBO’s nonpartisanship and independence by trying to frame them in a political context.”

“My fear is that the way in which Congress is interacting with CBO is changing radically. So here is the list of the CBO publications related to health care legislation released in 2009 and 2010, and it is a very long list. CBO started sending out reports in early 2009 and then began releasing estimates of the committee products once committees began their work, so that by the Fall of 2009, there were complete CBO reports that members could look at for the basis of considering legislation on the floor. 

“What’s happening here is very different. Republicans are not going through the committee process, there is no bill being produced by committee, they are negotiating a product in secret, and then having confidential conversations with CBO. 

“So to the extent that you are interested – and these are your words – in a “level playing field”, what do you about this relationship of confidentiality can be taken advantage of to effectively hold the CBO score until the last possible minute, giving members of the minority party a very small amount of time to look at that legislation. This policy of waiting to release it until it was made public made a lot more sense back when committees functioned and you had a CBO score on the committee bill.

“I don’t think we can ask you to make that change in policy unilaterally. I raise it in the context of this hearing because I just think that you’re being used by the Republican majority for political purposes. And I think it compromises your independence and it will encourage Democrats, when they’re in the majority, to similarly use you – use that confidentiality – to hold the CBO score until the last minute. That is at the basis of my worry about the way in which Republicans are acting today.”

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