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CBOh no they didn't

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Top Republican legislators have spent months now attacking the Congressional Budget Office. House Speaker Paul Ryan derided the agency's Obamacare numbers as "bogus," speaking to reporters at an event in Massachusetts Thursday.

The CBO directors are fighting back. All eight signed on to a letter Friday to raise a "strong objection to recent attacks on the integrity and professionalism of the agency."

The letter continues:

Relying on CBO’s estimates in the legislative process has served the Congress  —  and the American people  —  very well during the past four decades. As the House and Senate consider potential policy changes this year and in the years ahead, we urge you to maintain and respect the Congress’s decades-long reliance on CBO’s estimates in developing and scoring bills.

This is the first time, I'm told, that all eight former directors have signed on to a joint letter. The group includes those appointed by Republicans and Democrats. The former directors have kicked around the idea of a letter for the past month or so, as they watched the attacks mount from the sidelines. They made a decision to write this letter about a week ago.

There is a reason this letter is addressed to congressional leadership rather than to the White House. President Trump has also been quite critical of the CBO. The White House released an entire video last week dedicated to criticizing the office's work on health care.

But the former CBO director I spoke with said this wasn't about the White House. Their big concern is the attacks from Congress, which oversees the office and appoints its director (currently Keith Hall). Those attacks have become especially fierce over the past few weeks, as my colleague Tara Golshan writes:

Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA) even accused the CBO of conspiring against congressional Republicans, saying the office purposely released an updated negative report of the Obamacare repeal bill on the same day the House’s archconservatives filed a motion to force a floor vote on the bill. Others, like Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), point to the CBO’s projections for Obamacare back when the law was passed, which overestimated how many people would be insured.

The CBO directors don't expect to become a regular presence in the fight over the office's numbers. One reason there was some hesitation to put out the letter is that they didn't want to commit to an ongoing feud with Congress — but felt the attacks had become fevered enough to warrant a response.

As the former CBO director I spoke with put it to me, "We believe in the norms of our political system. And we believe, strongly, that the CBO is one of those norms."

Chart of the Day: Senate health bill would be unaffordable for low-income, elderly Americans

Loren Adler and Paul Ginsberg/USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy

Low-income Americans pay more under Senate bill. Loren Adler and Paul Ginsburg run the numbers, and estimate that out-of-pocket health spending would rise sharply for Americans earning less than $25,000 or so. The biggest hike would be on older Americans. Adler and Ginsburg, in an analysis for the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy, find that "the magnitude of this change stems in large part from the elimination of the ACA’s cost-sharing subsidies." Read the full report here.

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