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The GOP's opening gambit: 'Dynamic scoring'

Hours after taking control of the new Congress, Republicans passed a rule changing the way that budget math is done.
The US Capitol dome is seen on Capitol Hill on Jan. 5, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty)
The US Capitol dome is seen on Capitol Hill on Jan. 5, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

Hours after taking control of the new Congress, Republicans pushed through a change to the way the cost of major bills are calculated—a move that Democrats quickly slammed as "voodoo scorekeeping" that would pave the way for bigger tax cuts. 

On Tuesday, the first day of the new Congress, Republicans on the House Rules Committee successfully passed a new rule allowing GOP leaders to require what's known as "dynamic scoring" for tax and entitlement legislation that they deemed to be significant. Any bill anticipated to cost at least 0.25% of GDP will also be dynamically scored.

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The change would require the official budget analysts of Congress to incorporate the macroeconomic impact of legislation into their estimates of the overall cost. Republicans have long argued that it's a more accurate and realistic way to analyze prospective bills. And they're intent on pushing the change through now as new Ways and Means Chair Paul Ryan prepares to take up tax reform.

“The inclusion of this realistic analysis provision in the House rules is an important victory in a larger effort to bring more transparency and accountability to the legislative process on behalf of American families," said Rep. Tom Price, chair of the House Budget Committee. "As history has shown and common sense would lead one to believe, laws passed by Congress can have a broad effect on the nation’s economic activity, on job creation and investment decisions."

But the long-term effects of legislation on the broader economy are notoriously difficult to predict—and, Democrats warn, easy to manipulate. 

"Republicans today are extending their embrace of voodoo economics by wrapping their arms around voodoo scorekeeping," said Rep. Sander Levin, top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee. "They are changing House rules to be able to cook the books to implement their long-held, discredited notion that tax cuts pay for themselves."

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The White House also condemned the House's move. "While this may seem like another example of Washington 'inside baseball' with little impact on the American public, using dynamic scoring for official cost estimates would risk injecting bias into a broadly accepted, non-partisan scoring process that has existed for decades," said White House budget chief Shaun Donovan said in a statement.

While the new rules allow Republican leaders to pick and choose certain tax bills they want to score dynamically, they won't apply to discretionary spending bills favored by Democrats.