MCCAIN CALLS CBO DATA ‘GARBAGE’…. For years, lawmakers in both parties have considered reports from the Congressional Budget Office to be a reliable guide while shaping legislation. Republicans, in particular, just love the CBO — considering it reliable and non-partisan — just so long as the party likes what it’s hearing.

It was rather inconvenient, then, when the Congressional Budget Office scored the GOP plan to repeal the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, and found that the Republican proposal would add $230 billion to the deficit. Making matters slightly worse, the CBO also found that the Republicans’ repeal bill, if it became law, would leave 32 million Americans without health insurance by the end of the decade and make coverage more expensive for individuals.

Naturally, after seeing the report, GOP officials quickly realized they had to reconsider the merits of their bill.

No, I’m just kidding. GOP officials actually realized it was time to attack the Congressional Budget Office. That’s still going on today.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday rejected the CBO’s cost estimate of healthcare repeal as “garbage in, garbage out.”

McCain said the Congressional Budget Office estimate that repealing the healthcare law would increase the deficit by $230 billion relies on flawed assumptions.

“So what I’m saying is, garbage in, garbage out,” McCain said on the Senate floor.

McCain cited two examples of how the CBO’s estimate is not properly taking into account the true costs of the healthcare law. First, he noted that the repeated increases in reimbursement levels to Medicare physicians, and the failure to repeatedly let cuts to those payments happen, are estimated to cost $208 billion over 10 years. “Nowhere is that put into the equation,” McCain said.

As a substantive matter, McCain’s argument, which we’ve heard before, is so spectacularly wrong, his rhetoric can only be called what it is: a demonstrable, blatant lie.

It’s also ironic, by the way, that Republicans consider inconvenient CBO data “garbage,” while simultaneously using a CBO report to make an argument about health care and jobs. (As it turns out, they’re blatantly lying about that, too.)

But in the larger context, there’s just something unhealthy about McCain’s entire style of argument. Ezra Klein recently noted the Congressional Budget Office is a “nonpartisan agency, which calculates the official cost of legislation for Congress, speaks in the polite language of actuarial tables, refuses to reliably please either party, and is the closest thing American politics has to an umpire.”

So, naturally, conservative lawmakers feel the need to try to discredit the independent voice calling balls and strikes, because that voice has the nerve to tell the truth, and there’s no room for accuracy while there’s a public to mislead.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.