Republicans are working the referees. In this case, the refs aren’t wearing striped shirts, but green eyeshades. They work at the Congressional Budget Office, known to policy wonks and politicians as the CBO.

The CBO was created to provide Congress with nonpartisan information about spending and taxing issues. It’s the only way, Republicans and Democrats have long agreed, that Congress can gather objective economic data.

Not everyone likes what the CBO says, of course. But almost everyone knows the office is essential.

So it’s more than a little disturbing that some Republicans were disparaging the instrument Congress developed to help make good decisions.

The CBO has analyzed the Republican health care bill, and found that it would cause 26 million people to lose their insurance by 2026. This is too much, apparently, for some in the Republican Party. “The CBO is consistently inconsistent,” Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina told Talking Points Memo, a liberal website.

The CBO has never claimed omniscience or a perfect prediction record. It missed badly on sign-up predictions for Obamacare, for example. The office didn’t see the Great Recession coming, which threw its deficit projections out of whack.

If Republicans have a better way to make such estimates, they should propose it once the health care debate is over. And no, a wet finger in the wind isn’t acceptable.

A few catcalls from the cheap seats are predictable and understandable. But Republicans should remember: Without refs, the game disintegrates.