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Testimony by Sandy Davis to the House Budget Committee

By Sandy Davis

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

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“Chairman Womack, Ranking Member Yarmuth, and members of the committee: Thank you for the opportunity to offer my perspectives on the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and how it operates. I applaud the Committee for the series of oversight hearings it has held on CBO this year. These hearings reflect a thoughtful and methodical approach to your oversight responsibilities over the agency. I believe they have helped to educate Members and the public on how CBO works, and have provided an important venue for Members to explore the issues and concerns they may have. That is an important service, both for CBO and for the Congress, and lays the groundwork for you to work with the agency to ensure it is meeting Congressional needs for nonpartisan budget and economic analysis.

Over the years, I have had the advantage of viewing the work of CBO from both inside and outside the agency, and within the agency from the perspective of working as an analyst and working as a member of the senior staff. I joined CBO in January of 1996, after working many years as a budget process specialist with the Congressional Research Service. In 2003, Director Doug Holtz-Eakin appointed me to be the agency’s first full-time legislative liaison, to help coordinate CBO communications with Congress and be a point of contact for congressional offices needing assistance or to discuss concerns. I held that position until retiring from CBO and federal service in July of 2015. In May of 2016, I joined the Bipartisan Policy Center as a senior advisor on economic and fiscal policy issues.

Based on these experiences and perspectives, I would like to make four key points:

(1) A vibrant, robust, and independent CBO is vital to Congress in the performance of its legislative duties under Article I of the Constitution. Just over 40 years ago, both CBO and the Budget Committees were created as part of a new Congressional budget process to enable Congress to set comprehensive budget priorities and combat excessive executive control over the federal budget. CBO’s role in that process is no less important today.

(2) Effective communication between CBO and Congress is one of the agency’s biggest challenges, made more difficult by changes in the budget process over the years that have made CBO much more integral to the legislative and budget process than was imagined at the time of its founding.

(3) The transparency of CBO’s analyses is more critical than ever, but CBO needs more resources to make further progress. CBO acknowledges that it can do a better job of making its work more transparent and its analyses more clearly explained, but its staff is stretched too thin both to carry out its core functions and devote the additional time needed to improve transparency. Some recent proposals to enhance the agency’s transparency, though well-meaning, are not the right approach.

(4) The Budget committees can play a key role helping CBO address Member concerns. The Budget committees are in a unique position to help CBO connect more effectively with Members, open lines of communication that would broaden understanding and appreciation for the importance of CBO’s role, and help CBO address any issues or concerns with its performance.”

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KEYWORDS: COMMITTEE ON BUDGET OVERSIGHT, CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE, HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE, SANDY DAVIS

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