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Boehner: CBO "Entitled to their Opinion"

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, right, accompanied by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011. AP

House Speaker John Boehner said today that the Congressional Budget Office is "entitled to their own opinion" - a striking statement in light of the deference usually shown information from the nonpartisan CBO from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Boehner was objecting to a preliminary CBO finding that repealing the health care reform legislation, as Boehner's House GOP plans to vote to do, would cost the government roughly $230 billion over ten years.

CBS News asked Boehner whether that finding prompted concern that he is sending a signal that he is not serious about addressing the debt and deficit when the "the first major legislative action you take will increase the debt."

"Well, I do not believe that repealing the job-killing health care law will increase the deficit," Boehner replied. "CBO is entitled to their opinion, but they're locked within constraints of the 1974 Budget Act. Listen, even the actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have made clear that this bill will not save the kind of money that was predicted earlier."

The 1974 budget act created the CBO to serve as a Congressional "scorekeeper," and lawmakers have repeatedly turned to it for objective cost estimates of their legislation. Boehner seemed to have been arguing that the CBO could not take into account necessary spending not written into the law.

Still, the comment raised eyebrows. CBS News subsequently asked how Boehner plans to move forward with "legislation of your own in this Congress if you don't trust what the CBO says."

"CBO can only provide a score based on the assumptions that are given to them," he said. "And if you go back and look at the health care bill and the assumptions that were given to them, you see all of the double-counting that went on, you see the fact that the doc fix wasn't even part of the bill."

He added that "I don't think anybody in this town believes that repealing Obamacare is going to increase the deficit."

In a report (PDF) Boehner's office released to buttress that argument, Republicans argued the health care law "relies on accounting gimmicks," double-counts cost savings from Medicare and requires additional government spending for implementation.

Following Boehner's comments, Ethan Rome, executive director of Health Care for America Now, released a statement reading in part, "Republicans are trashing the nonpartisan CBO report because its numbers are inconvenient."

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