Politics & Government

Hall gets his oats, will head CBO

Keith Hall is now head of the Congressional Budget Office, February 27, 2015.
Keith Hall is now head of the Congressional Budget Office, February 27, 2015. McClatchy

Congressional Republicans Friday nominated a prominent conservative economist and statistician Keith Hall to head the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

Republicans announced they were tapping Hall to become the ninth director of the Congressional Budget Office, which this week marked its 40th anniversary.

“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,” House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., said in a statement. “In particular, during his time at the U.S. International Trade Commission, Dr. Hall has worked on providing Congress with non-partisan economic analyses – a role similar to the responsibilities he will now assume as CBO director.”

The CBO plays a key role in congressional debates, “scoring” the budgetary impact of proposed legislation. It also provides closely followed forecasts on the trajectory of the nation’s debt and deficits, and has been closely watched for how it estimates the effects of the Affordable Care Act, shorthanded as Obamacare.

If confirmed, Hall would begin his term on an auspicious day, April 1st, and would serve through 2019.

From 2008 to 2012, Hall ran the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It puts out the monthly jobs report was well as monthly readings on inflation and a host of other important economic statistics.

More recently he served as chief economist for the International Trade Commission and was a scholar at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center in suburban Virginia.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called Hall “uniquely qualified” to head the CBO.

The top Democrat on the House Budget Committee welcomed the nomination but stopped short of endorsing Hall.

“On a daily basis, Congress relies on CBO for non-partisan, unbiased economic and budgetary analysis. I hope that Director Hall will continue that tradition of independent and professional leadership,” said Rep Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

The ranking minority on the Senate Budget Committee, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, also gave only qualified support of Hall, and did not say whether he’d support or oppose the nomination.

“Based on Mr. Hall’s writings, it appears that we have very different views on a range of issues and he would not have been my first choice,” Sanders said in a statement. “His opposition to increasing the minimum wage and his resistance to sound strategies for eliminating poverty place him outside the mainstream.”

In economic circles, however, Hall has been known as a serious economist and statistician.

In a show of bipartisanship that is all too rare in Washington, Speaker Boehner praised departing CBO director Doug Elmendorf for his tenure.

“Doug is widely respected on both sides of the aisle, and has always been a true class act,” Boehner said.