The House of Representatives has voted to adopt a controversial method of assessing the budgetary impact of legislation that critics say will bias the Congressional Budget Office toward making conservative proposals misleadingly cheap.
The CBO has traditionally measured legislation by calculating its direct cost to the government. The method requires analysts to account for changes in behavior that a new law might create.
Under the “dynamic scoring” method approved by the House on a partisan vote Tuesday, the CBO would measure the impact of legislation on the economy as a whole. Republican lawmakers argue that it provides a more comprehensive assessment of a bill.
“It doesn’t game the system at all. All we’re trying to do is make certain that members of Congress have more information upon which to be able to make decisions,” incoming House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) told The Hill.
But Democrats believe dynamic scoring will exaggerate the benefits of tax cuts and politicize the CBO. “Republicans today are extending their embrace of voodoo economics by wrapping their arms around voodoo scorekeeping,” said Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
“It’s not about more information, but [cooking] the books to implement [Republicans’] long-held discredited notion that tax cuts pay for themselves,” Levin added.
The White House also opposes dynamic scoring. “Congress should not adopt changes in scoring legislation that upend the level playing field that has existed for decades, and could call into question the accuracy, consistency, and fairness” of CBO budget estimates, the Office of Management and Budget said in a blog post.
The new rule requires the CBO to use dynamic scoring for “major legislation,” which is defined as that causing a gross budgetary effect in any fiscal year equal to or greater than 0.25% of the projected U.S. gross domestic product for that year.
Based on GDP in 2013, only tax and appropriation bills having a budgetary impact of around $42 billion would be affected, according to Tax News, although the chairman of the House Budget Committee will be allowed to designate other bills as “major legislation.”