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New House Leadership Passes A Tax Cut 'Scoreboard'

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio arrives on the House floor in the Capitol on Tuesday, the opening session of the 114th Congress.
J. Scott Applewhite
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio arrives on the House floor in the Capitol on Tuesday, the opening session of the 114th Congress.

In a move to cement their party's fiscal ideology, Republicans used the first vote of the new Congress to change the rules for estimating the economic consequences of major legislation.

"Dynamic scoring" is an analysis that requires macroeconomic projections be used when analyzing major bills. Republicans argue, for example, that tax cuts bring in more revenue to the government, not less, because they lead to economic growth which increases tax revenues. The new rules require the nonpartisan experts at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the staff of Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) to use dynamic scoring.

The New York Times reported that under the new law, the incoming House Budget Committee chairman, Tom Price, R-Ga., will be able to send tax-related bills to the "scoreboard" to be tallied, dynamic-style.

"We're saying, 'If you think a piece of legislation is going to have a big effect on the economy, then include that effect in the official cost estimate,'" Price said. "So if you think a bill is going to help or hurt the economy, then tell us how much."

The rule was passed along party lines, 234-172, as Democrats criticized the process as a way to hide the real costs of tax cuts favored by Republicans. Ranking Democrat of the House Ways and Means Committee Sandy Levin said Tuesday that the law was not a good way to gather more information about tax policy.

"Republicans today are extending their embrace of voodoo economics by wrapping their arms around voodoo scorekeeping.

They are changing House rules to be able to cook the books to implement their long-held, discredited notion that tax cuts pay for themselves.

I think that former Reagan and George H. W. Bush administration official Bruce Bartlett said it best: 'It is not about honest revenue-estimating; it's about using smoke and mirrors to institutionalize Republican ideology into the budget process.'

That's what this is all about."

In an earlier statement, Levin called it "trickle-down economics," a Republican-favored theory that would provide tax breaks and the like to corporations and the wealthy, projecting that the benefits would eventually reach the lower classes through hiring, spending, services and other transactions.

The scoring rule was passed Tuesday as part of a package that also included an extension of the panel on the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. The GOP lawsuit against President Obama for his recent executive actions was also extended in the vote.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lauren Hodges is an associate producer for All Things Considered. She joined the show in 2018 after seven years in the NPR newsroom as a producer and editor. She doesn't mind that you used her pens, she just likes them a certain way and asks that you put them back the way you found them, thanks. Despite years working on interviews with notable politicians, public figures, and celebrities for NPR, Hodges completely lost her cool when she heard RuPaul's voice and was told to sit quietly in a corner during the rest of the interview. She promises to do better next time.