Gohmert Scorns the Scorekeepers

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) believes budget scoring is important. Too important, in fact, to be left to Congress’ designated nonpartisan scorekeepers, the Congressional Budget Office.

Gohmert, a hardcore conservative best known for floor speeches known as #GohmertHour after the House adjourns each week, said Congress should look to other organizations to score the impact of legislation on the U.S. budget. He made his remarks Nov. 16 at “Conversations With Conservatives,” a periodic gathering of like-minded Republican House members sponsored by the Heritage Foundation.

Rep. Louie Gohmert

“I’d like to start by putting scoring of bills—and I’ve talked to [supply-side economist Arthur] Laffer about it—let's make it competitive to score bills and score the scorers, so that we realistically know what we're looking at,” Gohmert said in a discussion of repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Congress uses CBO estimates to gauge the impact of bills on the budget. Tax-only bills are usually scored by the Joint Committee on Taxation, while spending-only and hybrid bills are scored by CBO or CBO and JCT jointly. Conservatives have long complained about CBO, saying it has failed to estimate the impact of bills that would stimulate economic growth, even though the House and Senate made it easier in 2015 to seek so-called dynamic scores from CBO and JCT.

After the event, Gohmert said he had had discussions about the idea of opening up scoring but did not make it sound like a proposal was imminent. “I had dinner a few years ago with [House Speaker] Paul Ryan, Arthur Laffer and [Heritage economist] Steve Moore, to talk about my idea of making scoring competitive and giving scorers scores and it was intriguing. I know Laffer has done a lot of research to see if that might be feasible. So, you’ll hear more at an appropriate time,” he told Bloomberg BNA.

Asked who the scorekeepers would compete against, Gohmert said, “Whoever wanted to compete. It could be universities, it could be Moody’s, whoever wanted to compete."

"If the JCT or whoever is not as good, we get rid of them and go strictly with those are competing and they’re more accurate than the JCT or CBO," he said.

The CBO occasionally puts out research taking a look at its budget forecasting record. In November 2015, for example, it said it had been overestimating revenues by about 1.1 percent in its forecasts for the next two years. In a government that brings in almost $4 trillion annually, that error was around $37 billion annually, the CBO said.