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Orszag Escalates Battle With CBO

Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag accused Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf of “overstepping— in a Web post Saturday, escalating the battle between the Obama administration and Republicans over the White House’s conduct toward the CBO.The charge was leveled after Elmendorf posted a blog entry Saturday that suggested a new Obama proposal to create an independent board to reduce Medicare payments would save $2 billion over 10 years, a small sum compared to the overall cost overruns of the program. In response, Orszag wrote on his blog that the administration’s proposed Independent Medicare Advisory Council was never intended to provide savings over the next decade. “Instead, the goal is to provide a mechanism for improving quality of care for beneficiaries and reducing costs over the long term,— Orszag wrote.Orszag all but accused Elmendorf of misconduct.“As a former CBO director, I can attest that CBO is sometimes accused of a bias toward exaggerating costs and underestimating savings,— Orszag wrote. “Unfortunately, parts of today’s analysis from CBO could feed that perception.—Orszag said the CBO had broken with previous practice by discussing specific savings that might occur as a result of the IMAC after 10 years.“Such savings are welcome (and rare!), but it is also the case that (for good reason) CBO has restricted itself to qualitative, not quantitative, analyses of long-term effects from legislative proposals,— Orszag said. “In providing a quantitative estimate of long-term effects without any analytical basis for doing so, CBO seems to have overstepped.—The dueling blog posts Saturday come in the wake of a White House meeting last week between President Barack Obama and Elmendorf that Republicans charged was an effort to stomp on the independence of the CBO, which on July 2 had dealt the administration a blow with an analysis that the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee bill it supports would cost the government an additional $600 billion.Late Saturday, Republicans began suggesting the White House was again improperly meddling with the CBO. In an e-mail titled “Going After the Umpire,— Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), noted that the White House “didn’t much care for— Elmendorf’s analysis.“As I’m sure you saw, the CBO reported today that the IMAC proposal (that the White House calls “a big game changer—) might provide no savings at all, and if it did, the savings would be a fraction of a percent of the total cost of the bill,— Stewart wrote.

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