WH Pushes back against CBO meeting criticism

In an act that officials from previous administrations call "highly unusual", President Obama met with the head of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Douglas Elmendorf and others for about an hour in the Oval Office on Monday.Douglas Holtz-Eakin, CBO Director during President George W. Bush's administration, tells Fox he never met with Mr. Bush to discuss any CBO policies or estimates. Holtz-Eakin says the Obama White House didn't consider the ramifications of the meeting, "They didn't think about the position they're putting the CBO in, and as a result, they ended up with a little bit of a snafu in the public relations and that's not helpful in an already contentious process."

Previous administration officials point out that the CBO is supposed to be non-partisan, and objective in its analysis of budgetary and economic items. Republican leaders in Congress pounced on this fact. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell described it as "that's like asking the umpires to come up to the owner's box.... I mean, if the CBO is to have credibility, they're the umpire."

House Minority Leader John Boehner didn't fault Elmendorf for attending the meeting, but did say, "I do wonder why the President invited him to the White House. He has a big job. He is the non-partisan director of the Congressional Budget Office charged with providing fair and neutral analysis of what legislation would cost and what impact it would have."

White House spokesman Reid Cherlin defended the meeting saying, "If someone thinks it's inappropriate for the President to meet with the CBO Director, that's unfortunate."

Although Elmendorf is a Democratic appointee, some say he has done extensive political damage to President Obama and Congressional Democrats leading the charge on health care reform. It was Elmendorf who wrote that one House proposal does little to cut health care costs and it will have a negative $239 billion impact on the federal deficit.

Elmendorf wrote about his meeting with Mr. Obama on his blog, saying it was exciting to meet the President and be in the Oval Office, and that "my kids will be jealous." Most importantly, he suggested that the meeting would not affect his ability to do his job, "Of course, the setting of the conversation and the nature of the participants do not affect CBO's analysis of health reform legislation."