Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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Grassley Presses CRS on Objectivity of Tax Reform Analysis

Jun 21, 2019

WASHINGTON – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to Director of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) Mary B. Mazanec regarding the tone and substance of a recent CRS report on the economy after the enactment of tax reform.

“I have received comments from others who believe that the CRS observations are not entirely nonpartisan in tone or objective,” Grassley wrote. “If CRS wishes to produce original research analysis that takes a position and tone that is favorable to one side of a debate, without balancing it with alternative objective views, then CRS ought not to present its analysis as objective, nonpartisan, and authoritative.”

Various assessments about the impacts of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) have included information about increased investment, increased and broad-based wage growth and increased productivity thanks to the enactment of tax reform. However, the analysis released by CRS did not include such data in its report.

In his letter, Grassley asks Mazanec to meet with his professional staff to discuss whether there is a peer-review process for original research conducted by CRS and how Congress should interpret “authoritative and objective” CRS analysis that differs from analysis produced by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) or the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Senate Finance Committee professional staff produced a review of the CRS report. Highlights of the overview include:

  •          Positive economic news, such as increased investment, increased wage growth and increased productivity are consistent with many of the objectives in TCJA;
  •          CRS seems to have selectively used theory and evidence, and not in an entirely objective, nonpartisan way, to analyze economic data in relation to TCJA;
  •          Some data used by CRS was derived from information shared by a “progressive” special interest group; and,
  •          The findings in the CRS paper contradict analysis released by the CBO and Joint Committee on Taxation.

 

Text of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Director Mazanec,

A recent paper by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) put forward what CRS seems to believe are noteworthy observations with respect to economic effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. I have received comments from others who believe that the CRS observations are not entirely nonpartisan in tone or objective. As indicated in the attached “Overview,” my professional staff has also expressed reasons to be concerned about your recent report. Additionally, I have received the attached communication from an official at the Department of the Treasury that calls into question elements of the recent CRS paper. 

If CRS wishes to produce original research analysis that takes a position and tone that is favorable to one side of a debate, without balancing it with alternative objective views, then CRS ought not to present its analysis as objective, nonpartisan, and authoritative.  One immediate question that arises is whether CRS subjects its original research to any sort of balanced and objective external peer-review process.  Another is: how should Congress and the Public interpret research analysis of the economy when faced with differences that arise between CRS and our scorekeepers, the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation, when all are to be regarded as authoritative voices of Congress. 

I request that you meet with my professional staff to discuss these issues. 

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