Mention “scorecard” and my mind would probably turn to ballroom dancing or perhaps boxing. But not today. For it isn’t only pugilists and polka practitioners who have to wait for a (hopefully) neutral arbiter to deliver the right figures – politicians sometimes have to, as well.

Which brings me to the Congressional Budget Office, which has pledged to get its full “score” of President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation to Congress by Friday in a report that will analyze the proposal’s impact on revenue and spending. A lot depends on what the CBO says about how well the bill balances the books. A group of five Democrats have delayed voting on the US$1.75 trillion social spending bill until the CBO’s full verdict.

Philip Rocco at Marquette University explains how fiscal scorekeepers got to be so powerful in the halls of Congress, and how their reports have often been used for partisan reasons. He quotes Senator Chuck Grassley’s astute observation: “CBO is God around here … because policy lives and dies by CBO’s word.”

Also today:

Matt Williams

Breaking News Editor

You know they’re waiting, just anticipating … for CBO figures they don’t yet possess. Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Congress is waiting on the CBO for its Build Back Better report – but how did fiscal scorekeepers come to be so powerful in politics?

Philip Rocco, Marquette University

Five Democrats are refusing to vote on a signature bill until the Congressional Budget Office delivers its full cost estimate. For a small agency, the CBO can hold a lot of legislative sway.

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