Debt group urges GOP chairman to avoid budget 'gimmicks'

Debt group urges GOP chairman to avoid budget 'gimmicks'

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) is urging the Senate Budget Committee to avoid using “gimmicks” as it crafts a budget resolution to facilitate tax-reform legislation.

CRFB, which has bipartisan leadership and supports fiscal responsibility, said the Senate panel should produce a resolution that uses the traditional current-law baseline for scoring legislation, rather than a current-policy baseline that assumes temporary tax breaks will be extended.

"Adopting a 'choose your own baseline' practice would set a dangerous precedent that would allow Congress to hide the true cost of massive debt-busting entitlement spending or tax changes in the future," CRFB president Maya MacGuineas wrote in a letter to Budget Committee Chairman Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziBudget chairs press appropriators on veterans spending Forcing faith-based agencies out of the system is a disservice to women Senate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs MORE (R-Wyo.) on Wednesday.

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Congressional Republicans intend to pass tax-reform legislation through a process known as budget reconciliation so that the tax bill doesn’t need any support from Democrats in the Senate. In order for lawmakers to use reconciliation for tax reform, they first need to pass a budget resolution for fiscal year 2018 that provides instructions for a tax bill.

Bills passed through reconciliation can’t add to the deficit outside the budget window, so a budget resolution is likely to call for tax reform that is deficit-neutral.

Senators are currently weighing which type of baseline to use in their forthcoming budget resolution.

It could be easier to cut taxes if the resolution uses the current-policy baseline, which assumes less federal revenue over the next decade, instead of the current-law baseline.

CRFB said that the using a current-policy baseline would make it easier for lawmakers to increase the national debt.

“The use of a current policy baseline in the budget resolution would allow Congress to pass legislation that technically complies with reconciliation instructions and budget rules requiring deficit neutrality while in reality increasing debt levels by half a trillion dollars or more over the next decade,” the group said.

CRFB also said that all budget resolutions in the past several decades have used the current-law baseline, including the fiscal year 2018 resolution that the House Budget Committee approved last month. And the group noted that a 2015 law known as the PATH Act specifically called for temporary tax breaks that were renewed at the time to expire.

“Assuming the continuation of the tax breaks the PATH Act let expire would, in fact, be a deviation from current policy and a violation of the bipartisan commitment policymakers made in that law,” CRFB wrote.