EXCLUSIVE: ‘Par For The Course’: Former CBO Director Says White House Attacks On Report Are Classic Partisan Pushback

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Anders Hagstrom White House Correspondent
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President Joe Biden’s pre-emptive strikes against the upcoming Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the Build Back Better Act represent the classic partisan pushback against the CBO from a disappointed administration, former CBO Director Keith Hall told the Daily Caller.

The CBO has signaled that it’s Friday report will conclude that Biden’s agenda is not, in fact, “paid for,” as the White House and top Democrats on Capitol Hill have insisted for months. The White House has already begun to brace for the report, going so far as to encourage lawmakers to disregard it as false. White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates argued to reporters Tuesday that the CBO does not have experience in calculating how much revenue the government stands to gain from cracking down on tax loopholes, and therefore underestimated revenue.

Hall, who served as a Republican-appointed CBO director from 2015-2019 disagreed that the CBO was inexperienced, saying CBO procedure would likely have been to consult directly with the IRS. (RELATED: ‘Truly Historic’: Biden Takes Victory Lap During Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Signing Ceremony)

“I’ve got to say, this sort of going after CBO when you think you aren’t going to like the numbers — there’s a long, long history of that. Certainly the Trump administration did that,” Hall said. “If there’s pushback like this, that’s — somewhat that’s just par for the course.”

“What would likely have done, and I bet they did, is in fact talk to the IRS,” Hall said. “One of the big issues on something like enforcement is, what’s the so-called return on investment that Treasury typically sees? When they increase their spending on enforcement, how much does that result in increased tax revenue?”

Hall went on to say the discrepancy between White House estimates and the CBO is far from new.

“This tax difference is not uncommon. I think the last president’s budget for the Trump administration, the CBO estimated the revenue effects of their proposed legislation and they differed like by what, $5 trillion. It was a huge difference between what the Trump administration thought would be the total revenue effect of their budget versus CBO,” Hall said. “So it’s really not uncommon for an administration to have a really different view, and again I remind you that they have an agenda typically.”

The CBO under Hall’s leadership came under heavy criticism from the Trump White House when the former president was seeking to pass his health care agenda in 2017. Many of the same Democrats who are now urging lawmakers to disregard the CBO criticized Trump for attempting to stiff-arm the CBO, including Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

CBO chief Phillip Swagel delivered a blow to the Biden administration Monday, saying that the tax loophole crackdown in the Biden’s agenda would only garner $120 billion, a far cry from the White House’s projected $400 billion, according to The New York Times.

Pres. Joe Biden gave remarks before signing the bipartisan infrastructure bill into law on Monday. (Screenshot YouTube, President Joe Biden Signs Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill)

Pres. Joe Biden gave remarks before signing the bipartisan infrastructure bill into law on Monday. (Screenshot YouTube, President Joe Biden Signs Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill)

The Biden administration pushed back on the preliminary report within hours.

“In this one case, I think we’ve made a very strong empirical case for CBO not having an accurate score,” Ben Harris, assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department, told the NYT on Monday. “The question is would they rather go with CBO knowing CBO is wrong, or would they want to target the best information they could possibly have?”

Moderate Democrats have said that the expect the CBO report to line up with the White House’s own cost analysis of Biden’s spending agenda. That looks increasingly unlikely. None of the Democrats have gone on the record to say whether they will oppose Biden’s bill if the CBO report is harsh, however.