WASHINGTON -- Congressional Democrats, removed from their rhetorical
shackles by the coming Republican control of the House, are accusing the
GOP of resorting to "Enron-type accounting" in their efforts to push
legislation in the next Congress.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the incoming ranking member of the
House Budget Committee, warned on Tuesday that Republican leadership is
set to implement new rules that would effectively do away with the
Congressional Budget Office. The CBO is often regarded as a nonpartisan,
independent scorekeeper for Congress. And by taking away its input in
legislative matters, Van Hollen said, Republicans were ushering in an
era of make-your-own-reality-based budgeting.
"This is a huge loophole for Enron-type accounting ... In the rule
they pass tomorrow they are going to reiterate that the chair of the
budget committee has the authority to come up with his own estimate of
the budget impact of various pieces of legislation," Van Hollen told the
Huffington Post. "And a week from now, when they get around to
repealing health care reform I think you will see they will go down and
say this has zero cost impact."
"It is a wholesale disregard of CBO estimates," Van Hollen added.
"After all, CBO is the one referee we have around here when it comes to
the budget. So again, we are watching this unfold. But it does seem that
they are putting in place the pieces to allow the Chairman of the
Budget committee to literally make up the numbers as they go."
The charges by the Van Hollen are fairly weighty in the wonky world
of budgetary politics. But they underscore the extent to which Democrats
feel that Republicans are turning the CBO and its scoring into partisan
issues. Also on Tuesday, incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.)
accused the budget office of misrepresenting the cost of the health care
law for the benefit of persuading skittish Democrats to support the
bill (the CBO estimated that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the
deficit by more than $100 billion over ten years).
"Rep. Van Hollen was being hyperbolic? NAH - not Rep. Van Hollen!!!"
Cantor's top spokesman, Brad Dayspring, told the Huffington Post in an
email. "It seems that everybody in America knows that ObamaCare adds to
the deficit and kills jobs except Rep. Van Hollen, Rep. Pelosi, and
House Democrats who just suffered a historic election loss arguing
The debate over both the CBO and the cost of health care reform
should intensify in the week ahead, as House Republicans consider a bill
to repeal the law. Van Hollen's office has formally requested, and
expects to receive, an estimate from the budget office as to the cost of