Finance

Norquist opposes new term for CBO director

Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist is trying to stop any momentum among conservatives for giving Douglas Elmendorf, the current director of the Congressional Budget Office, another term.

Several top economists on the right - including Gregory Mankiw, who headed George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers - have argued that Elmendorf should get another four years as Congress's chief budget scorekeeper.

But in an open letter on Friday, Norquist, the founder of Americans for Tax Reform, laid out seven reasons why Elmendorf should leave his post when his term expires early next year.

"Elmendorf served on President Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisors and in the Clinton Treasury Department. He was a senior fellow at the liberal establishment Brookings Institution. He even got a Ph.D. from Harvard under the dissertation guidance of former Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers," Norquist wrote. "There is no doubt that he is a career Man of the Left."

Perhaps Norquist's sharpest criticism is that Elmendorf accepted models from Jonathan Gruber, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist, that gave President Obama's healthcare law high marks for reducing the deficits and boosting insurance rolls.

Gruber recently came under fire after a video surfaced showing him crediting ObamaCare's passage to the "stupidity of the American voter."

Norquist also charged that Elmendorf only used dynamic scoring - which projects that large fiscal or tax changes can affect economic growth - on the Senate's immigration bill in 2013. Norquist and top GOP lawmakers, like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), have called dynamic scoring little more than common sense, and want to use it to help ease the path for tax reform as well.

And Norquist accused Elmendorf of giving far too positive marks to Obama's 2009 stimulus package.

Besides Mankiw, both Michael Strain and Alan Viard of the American Enterprise Institute have endorsed Elmendorf for another term at the CBO.

Elmendorf took over the top slot at the CBO in 2009, after then-director Peter Orszag left to become Obama's budget chief.

In calling for another term for Elmendorf, Mankiw stressed that the current director is a perfect fit for CBO's nonpartisan set-up. "What do you want in a good referee? Competence and impartiality. Doug has demonstrated both," Mankiw wrote. "He is a superb economist and, over the past six years as CBO director, has shown himself to be scrupulously non-partisan."

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), the incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, haven't yet publicly declared whether they want Elmendorf to get another term.

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