This afternoon in New Hampshire, Newt Gingrich referred to the Congressional Budget Office — the body responsible for scoring the affect of congressional legislation on the deficit — as “a reactionary socialist institution.” As Political Correction’s Jamison Foser points out, Gingrich has been accusing the CBO of socialism since at least 1994, even though he has relied on the budget office repeatedly to produce nonpartisan scores of critical legislation. Here he is talking about the importance of the CBO in 1995:
Let me say, first of all, that we knew the President would veto the Balanced Budget Act. We’re still very proud of the fact that — as a team — House and Senate Republican passed the first balanced budget in a generation. And we did it working together, solving tremendous number of problems. We did it honestly, using the Congressional Budget Office which was tough. [...]
And yet, I have to say that I have mixed emotions today. On the one hand the President said yesterday he’s going to send up a seven-year balanced budget. It won’t yet be scored by the Congressional Budget Office. But they’ve agreed the Congressional Budget Office would do the scoring.
Now, just to make clear why that’s important. The so-called “balanced budget” of the President over here, when scored by the Congressional Budget Office, suddenly became a $200 billion a year deficit. So, we can’t rely on some phony White House score. And we want to just make clear that our first principle is that whatever the President sends up, we’re going to insist on honest scoring to get honest numbers, which were the ground rules that we wrote the Balanced Budget Act by.
This kind of animosity — or some degree of it — is prevalent in both parties, with Democrats demonstrating a good deal of frustration during the health reform effort about the CBO’s refusal to score prevention and delivery reform provisions as savings. In fact as Paul Starr has pointed out, “Obama agreed to delay implementation of the major provisions of the [health] law until January 2014,” as a way to ensure a good deficit reduction score from the agency. “CBO is God around here,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) likes to say, “because policy lives and dies by CBO’s word. Like the Bible, a CBO document can mean different things to different people and it’s easy to pull things out in isolation to justify a position.”
But molding legislation to CBO rules and whims certainly doesn’t make for the very best policy. The office follows budgetary rules that Congress “originally established in the conference report on the Balanced Budget Act of 1997″ and Gingrich personally voted for, and so if lawmakers aren’t happy with the CBO’s assumption, they have a means of changing them. (That is, if they can ever stop cherry picking favorable scores while complaining about unfavorable numbers.)