House Could Vote on CBO Amendments This Week

The House could vote this week on whether to slash staff at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which has come under fire from Republicans for its estimates of the impact of GOP-proposed health care bills.

The House Rules Committee was expected Tuesday to decide whether to make in order any of the three proposed amendments to the portion of the appropriations “minibus” (H.R. 3219) dealing with legislative agencies, including the Congressional Budget Office. All three would cut the CBO’s budget to some extent, with one, with one offered by Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) that would cut $25.4 million from the CBO’s budget.

Capitol Building

The other two amendments have a narrower target: the CBO’s Budget Analysis division, the part that makes both formal and informal estimates of the impact of proposals on the federal budget as well as the periodic baselines that serve as the benchmark for changes.

A second Perry amendment would eliminate the Budget Analysis division, which it says includes $15 million in annual salaries for 89 employees, and transfer those responsibilities to the CBO director’s office. The director’s office would perform the CBO’s scorekeeping duties in the Perry amendment by compiling scores from the conservative Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute as well as the centrist Brookings Institution and Urban Institute.

Another amendment, by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), would also eliminate the Budget Analysis division and transfer its duties to the director’s office but would not require the compilation of estimates from external organizations.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said Monday he favored Griffith’s approach, though he also favored using different scores from outside organizations.

“There is no suggestion that this would happen immediately. But obviously if we are looking at future appropriations, we just think there is a better way to do it,” Meadows said.

The CBO has about 235 employees. In his testimony before a House Appropriations subcommittee in June, CBO Director Keith Hall asked lawmakers for $49.9 million in funding for fiscal 2018, a boost of 3.4 percent from CBO’s 2017 level.