GOP picks new budget referee

GOP picks new budget referee
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Republicans on the House and Senate Budget committees have picked Keith Hall to be the next director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

Hall will take over from CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf on April 1.

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The new director served as commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics under President George W. Bush and continued in that role under President Obama.

Hall also previously served as Bush’s chief economist at the Council of Economic Advisers and chief economist at the Commerce Department.

Since October, he has served as the chief economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission. Before that, he was a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center.

Chatter about replacing Elmendorf at the CBO began in November, following the GOP’s victory in the midterm elections. His term expired on Jan. 3, and he’s been serving on an interim basis since then.

CBO scores are a huge part of congressional debates. Scores showing that a bill will take a larger-than-expected bite out of the budget can doom legislation.

With Hall, Republicans could be getting a CBO director with whom they are more comfortable.

Hall has previously testified before Congress, and at a Senate Budget panel hearing last April, he said proposals backed by Obama and Democrats to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour “may have the perverse and unintended effect of increasing income inequality in the United States.”

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerAmash storm hits Capitol Hill Crowley, Daschle named to international cannabis board Clash with Trump marks latest break with GOP leaders for Justin Amash MORE (R-Ohio) hailed Hall’s appointment.

“Dr. Hall is uniquely qualified to serve as the head of the Congressional Budget Office. He brings with him a wealth of expertise on the economy and labor markets, as well as economic, fiscal and regulatory policy,” he said. “We look forward to working with him in his new capacity as Republicans develop common-sense policies that will create more jobs and grow our economy.”

The chairman of the Senate Budget panel hailed Hall for his record of government services.

“He has dedicated his career to managing teams focused on strengthening the economy by providing policy makers and the public with superior economic analysis and information,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) said in a statement.

Hall holds a Ph.D. in economics from Purdue University — a degree many budget experts say is a preferred credential to be CBO director. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and psychology from the University of Virginia.

The other top candidates for the job, sources said, included Jeffrey Brown and Katherine Baicker.  

Boehner also praised Elmendorf, who has been CBO’s director since 2009.

“Lastly, I would like to recognize and thank Doug Elmendorf for his service to the Congress and the American people. Doug is widely respected on both sides of the aisle, and has always been a true class act,” Boehner said.

Hall’s term will expire Jan. 3, 2019.

Democrats had warned Republicans not to replace Elmendorf, fearing the appointment of a conservative more amenable to "dynamic scoring" that is more favorable to tax cuts.

"I hope that the new CBO director will lead CBO in the same independent, nonpartisan professional way that his predecessors have done on a bipartisan basis," Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told The Hill.

Asked if he's satisfied with the pick, Van Hollen said, "The issue is how he conducts himself as the head of the Congressional Budget Office. Again, the test will be whether he continues to lead CBO in a nonpartisan and independent way."

— Updated at 12:47 p.m.