National Press Club

Conservative Republican group seeks to eliminate independent congressional scorekeeper

July 26, 2017 | By Gwen Flanders | glflanders@gmail.com

Rep. Mark Meadows speaks at a July 24 National Press Club Headliners Luncheon.

Rep. Mark Meadows speaks at a July 24 National Press Club Headliners Luncheon.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

The Freedom Caucus, the group of the most conservative members of the House Republican conference, will seek to stop the Congressional Budget Office from offering independent analyses of congressional legislation.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who chairs the caucus, said at a July 24 National Press Club Headliners Luncheon that the group would seek to eliminate 89 jobs and instead have the CBO aggregate estimates made by ideological think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the Brookings Institution.

The CBO, run by a Republican appointed by the GOP-controlled Congress, is tasked with providing independent estimates of the impact of legislation. But it has run afoul of President Donald Trump and some congressional Republicans because its analysis found that both the House and Senate versions of legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would increase the number of uninsured Americans by more than 20 million.

“A number of us have been very critical of the Congressional Budget Office,” Meadows said. “They’re the one group that makes a weatherman’s 10-day forecast look accurate.”

A “composite score” would be “a pragmatic way to use the private sector and let Congress depend on a score that’s accurate,” he said. The idea will be debated as an amendment to spending legislation this week.

Meadows took the Club podium by saying, “There’s a whole lot of clarification that needs to be done” about the Freedom Caucus. He said caucus members were not responsible for the House Republican-led government shutdown in 2013 or the decision by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to resign in 2015.

The Freedom Caucus was established two years ago, to create a structure for like-minded members of Congress, Meadows said.

“We need to take a business approach to what we do as conservatives,” he said. The caucus has roughly three dozen members, some of whom don’t publicly declare their membership.

Questions after Meadows’ remarks focused heavily on Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Citing the importance of lowering premiums and protecting people with pre-existing conditions, Meadows said party leaders were “trying to sell what Americans didn’t want to buy.”

Meadows said he opposed proposals suggested by Trump to repeal the law without a replacement.

"If we repeal the Affordable Care Act first, I think that you do get Democrats on board," Meadows said. "You don’t necessarily get a more conservative piece of legislation. In fact, if anything, I don’t think you do get a conservative piece of legislation. I think you pass a straight repeal, I think the conservatives are kinda left out, and what you do is get more moderate Republicans teaming up with enough Democrats to put a replacement in place.”

Meadows was asked if opposition to using taxpayer dollars to fund a border wall Trump said Mexico would pay for was enough to block action on spending bills and shut down the government.

“The odds of a government shutdown are very minimal,” he said. “I think the funding for the border wall will happen.”