GOP’s Beloved Bill-Scoring Method Says GOP Wrong About Tax Reform

If you pay attention to the process of congressional bill writing — and who doesn’t? — you may have heard some talking head mention “dynamic scoring.”

This is a measurement used by both the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation to evaluate the effects of a bill on the nation’s budget, so that our elected representatives in their infinite wisdom can have all the information they need to cast a responsible vote on a bill.

Or, if the score tells them something they don’t want to hear, they can just ignore it and be irresponsible. Which is what the GOP is going to do on tax reform.

Thursday afternoon, the joint committee put out its score of the tax reform bill. Wouldn’t you know it, the score contradicts the claims the White House and the congressional GOP keep making about the bill’s effects.

From Mother Jones:

Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation found that the Senate tax bill will add $1 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years. […]

Republicans have argued that their $1.4 trillion tax cut will pay for itself by boosting economic growth, and in turn eventually increase tax revenue.

The joint committee’s score is one of those pieces of the legislative puzzle that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) considers to be part of his beloved “regular order.” And yet he still announced he will vote for this bill before the joint committee released its score, which tells you again just how tightly he holds on to his principles.

This score is significant for two reasons. One, it demolishes the GOP argument the tax reform bill is “deficit neutral.” As Jim Tankersley of The New York Times reminded everyone Thursday afternoon, House GOP leadership made the same argument a few weeks ago but then never even had the joint committee score its own bill before it passed it.

Second, it’s ironic, because the use of dynamic scoring by the joint committee and the CBO is something Republicans have long demanded. Those offices used to use static scoring, which the GOP argued tended to unfairly make bills geared toward conservative policy look worse than they were.

In fact, when Republicans took full control of Congress in 2015, they ordered the CBO and the joint committee to replace static scoring in favor of the dynamic scoring they prefer.

Now, the general reaction of Republicans to the joint committee’s score? Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said “it’s pretty clear they’re wrong” without specifying why. The Senate Finance Committee released a statement that read, in part:

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has said it was ‘not practicable’ to issue a macro view of the Senate bill at this time. And given that leading economists have projected the Senate tax bill will deliver significantly higher amounts of economic growth and federal revenue than the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) reports, the findings of JCT are curious and deserve further scrutiny.

If it is “not practicable” to score the bill because the Senate has not finished writing it, which is why the CBO hasn’t tried scoring anything yet, then why is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) barreling his chamber toward a vote Thursday night or sometime Friday? Is this not an admission that lawmakers are voting on this far-reaching bill without even an estimate from the joint committee or the CBO — again, both of which are using a scoring method Republicans themselves have demanded for years they use — about its possible consequences?

If Republicans admit now this tax bill will not do everything they promise, then they have to admit they were either wrong or lying about tax cuts or dynamic scoring. Faced with those two options, they have decided to go with the third choice of pretending the first two don’t exist.

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