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How two little-known offices will shape healthcare reform

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“We’re not talking about inexperienced rookies but the best-qualified people in the world to be in this situation, with decades of experience and thousands of tough decisions they have made,” he added.

The Congressional Budget Office

The CBO was created in the Budget Reform Act of 1974 to give Congress independent information and expertise in budget disputes with the White House. Strictly nonpartisan and famously impervious to leaks, CBO scores the cost of proposed legislation to the federal government.

But the heart of CBO’s value to Congress is the process leading up to those scores: staffers ask probing questions to clarify the purpose of legislation, and they have a robust back-and-forth with lawmakers to bring scores to an acceptable range.

“They go out of their way to not be part of the Washington scene," says federal budget expert Stan Collender, a partner at Qorvis Communications in Washington. "Some analysts have been there since the beginning – more than 30 years."

The business of economic projection is highly controversial. CBO and the White House Office of Management and Budget rarely agree on assumptions or projections. But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle still commonly refer to the CBO as “the gold standard,” even when they don’t always agree with its conclusions.

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