Paul Ryan says GOP is only pretending tax cuts will increase debt

The House Speaker claims it is just a trick to get past Senate rules

Paul Ryan
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI). CREDIT: Fox News Sunday screenshot

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) claimed on Sunday that the House Republican’s tax bill won’t really mean a huge increase in the national debt — even though their own estimates say it will increase the debt by about $1.5 trillion over ten years. His reasoning: they are only pretending in order to trick the senate parliamentarian.

On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Ryan why he is pushing a bill that contradicts his prior promise that the bill would be “deficit neutral” and abandoning his longstanding claim of being a deficit hawk.

Ryan responded by explaining that in order to pass the bill through the Senate with just 51 votes, Republicans must meet certain requirements in the way it presents the bill to the parliamentarian. This means, he said, that they could not rely on “dynamic scoring” — essentially using optimistic estimates that tax cuts will lead to so much growth that they effectively pay for themselves.

So, instead, he explained, “we did not want to leave it to chance that some bureaucrat — un-elected — would deny our ability to bring a tax bill through that is pro growth and that reflects those pro-growth estimates.”  But, he said, “we are absolutely convinced–and we’ll have economic models that will show this–that this will help grow the economy.”

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While the senate parliamentarian is un-elected, the position is appointed by the Senate Majority Leader — a position currently held by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — and can be removed by the majority.

And dynamic scoring is often little more than economic wishful thinking: previous tax cuts have often failed to produce the promised growth and have meant increased federal budget deficits.

While Ryan’s ploy could trick the senate parliamentarian, it may alienate some members of his own party.  On Meet the Press on Sunday, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said that he will vote against any tax bill that does not include reasonable growth estimates and increases the debt.