Congressional Republicans have named Keith Hall to head the Congressional Budget Office, which plays a crucial role in assessing how much healthcare programs will cost the federal Treasury.
Hall will replace Douglas Elmendorf, who has served in the office since 2009, starting April 1.
“Keith Hall will bring an impressive level of economic expertise and experience to the Congressional Budget Office,” Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), a physician who serves as chairman of the House Budget Committee, said in a statement. “Throughout his career, he has served in both the public and private sector, under presidents of both parties, and in roles that make him well-suited to lead the CBO.”
Hall served as commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2008 to 2012 under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Prior to that, he was chief economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisers and chief economist at the Department of Commerce.
Shortly after taking control of Congress in January, Republicans directed budget analysts to use “dynamic scoring” models when assessing proposed taxes and spending. That means they will consider macroeconomic factors in addition to the direct economic impacts of legislation.
Republicans were frustrated by some of the CBO's analyses of the Affordable Care Act. The agency could play a key role in scoring Republican Obamacare replacement plans, such as the blueprint put forward by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and two other GOP legislators.
Uwe Reinhardt, a healthcare economist at Princeton University, said that political beliefs inevitably influence economic methodology. “If economics were really a detached science, why would you have to change the head of the CBO whenever the political party in power on the Hill changes?” he asked.
But Reinhardt's concern about the influence of politics on economic forecasting is tempered by the knowledge that the CBO workforce doesn't change with the political winds. “He's not going to tell them what to do,” Reinhardt said. “If he tried, someone would quit in disgust and become a whistle-blower.”
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