The Corner

Fiscal Policy

Democrats Consider Firing the CBO Director

Mother Jones has the scoop:

The interest stems from some Democrats’ disappointment over the [Congressional Budget Office]’s recent scores of the party’s top priorities and a desire to see the office led by an economist willing to give Democrats the scores they’re looking for to push Biden’s agenda over the finish line. Such a move would make the ostensibly nonpartisan office a wonky pawn in the three-dimension chess game Democrats hope to play. . . .

The move is being deliberated among Senate Democratic staff, according to several senior Democratic sources, with some outreach to progressive House members. Staffers for the Senate Committee on the Budget, which is chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have already provided Senate Democratic leadership with a list of potential replacements for the role.

What was all that about norms again?

The current CBO director is an economist who held positions in the George W. Bush administration. He is serving a four-year term that started in 2019 — though most of the actual work of scoring bills is done by lower-level employees adhering to nonpartisan norms. The CBO especially infuriated Democrats by finding that a $15 minimum wage would reduce employment, for example, but this is standard economics and in line with previous CBO reports.

Yet if Democrats want to do this, there’s not much stopping them. Either house of Congress can pass a resolution to fire a CBO director, and the Democrats are in full control of the House. The replacement would be appointed by the speaker of the House (Nancy Pelosi) and the president pro tem of the Senate (Patrick Leahy).

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