Things of Note

Bad Idea: Directed Scoring Provision

Though the term “directed scoring” does not have an agreed upon definition, one generally knows it when comes up. A particularly clear example of  directed scoring provision showed up in last year’s Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (Pub. L. 115-31).  The language gives special treatment to a particular benefit in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program in the baseline. The baseline is the standard by which legislation is measured. In an ideal world it would be a projection of the U.S. Government’s spending and receipts if the law simply were  to continue under  its terms without any assumption of change.

Unfortunately this is not the way things work. Under section 257 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974,  directives are given to OMB and CBO as to how to create this baseline, in particular what programs should be assumed to continue, even though they may by law be set to expire, and under what terms. 

Whenever a bill comes that includes language intended to change the application of the scorekeeping rules used to prepare estimates, it’s directed scoring. However, when something comes along that actually changes the application of section 257 without actually amending the section, that is the most egregious form. 

How this particular provision was enacted when it should have been stopped by the House and Senate Budget Committees indicates how they have lost position and respect, or if they agreed with the provisions, how they’ve lots proper perspective on objective application of budget rules. 

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017
Pub. L. 115–31
131 Stat. 135, 803
May 5, 2017
H.R. 244 (115th Congress)

“(h) Appropriation.—

‘‘(1)  In general.—Of the amount appropriated by section 403(a)(1) [42 U.S.C. 603(a)] each fiscal year, 0.33 percent shall be available for research, technical assistance, and evaluation under this section.

‘‘(2) Allocation.—Of the amount made available under paragraph (1) for each fiscal year, the Secretary shall make available $10,000,000 plus such additional amount as the Secretary deems necessary and appropriate, to carry out subsection (e).

‘‘(3) Baseline .—The baseline established pursuant to section 257 of the Balanced Budget and Deficit Control Act of 1985 (2 U.S.C. 907(b)(2)) for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program shall be recorded by the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office at the level prior to any transfers recorded pursuant to section 413(h) of this Act [42 U.S.C. 603(a)].’’.

Counsel Notes