Sources: Swagel to Replace Hall as CBO Director
WASHINGTON — Senate and House budget leaders have chosen Phillip L. Swagel, a University of Maryland economist and former Treasury official in the George W. Bush administration, as the next director of the Congressional Budget Office, according to several sources with knowledge of the discussions.
Senate Budget Chairman Michael B. Enzi spearheaded the selection and is expected to announce the appointment later this week.
Swagel will replace Keith Hall, the current CBO director whose four-year term officially ended Jan. 3. Hall continued on in a temporary capacity while Budget Committee leaders in both chambers deliberated on his successor.
Enzi and the other three panel leaders — House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth and ranking member Steve Womack; and Senate Budget ranking member Bernie Sanders — considered several candidates for the post over the past several weeks, people with knowledge of the process said.
Swagel currently serves as professor of international economic policy at the university’s School of Public Policy. He is also a nonresident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.
Swagel has extensive experience in the executive branch, including serving as assistant secretary for economic policy at Treasury under Bush. During that stint between 2006 and 2009, he was a member of the Troubled Asset Relief Program investment committee and was responsible for analysis of issues including housing, financial markets, health care, pensions and macroeconomic forecasts, according to a biography on his university webpage.
He previously worked as chief of staff and a senior economist on the White House Council of Economic Advisers under Bush, and was an economist at the International Monetary Fund and the Federal Reserve Board.
The CBO director is required under law to be appointed “without regard to political affiliation and solely on the basis of his fitness to perform his duties.”
Keith Hennessey, who also worked in the Bush White House, called Swagel a “terrific pick to run CBO.”
“His intellect, professionalism and demeanor are perfect for CBO,” said Hennessey, who served as director of the National Economic Council under Bush. “Most importantly, he is intellectually honest and will tell hard truths to legislators, whether they want to hear them or not.”
Under budget law, the CBO director is appointed by the speaker and the president pro tempore of the Senate — currently Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley, respectively — after considering recommendations from the House and Senate Budget committees. There’s no need for Senate confirmation.
In practice, the decision is made by the Budget chairmen with some input from House and Senate leaders. Under an informal arrangement, the lead role in making the selection alternates between the House and Senate Budget chairs. Then-House Budget Chairman Tom Price took the lead in choosing Hall last time, sending the lead role to the Senate this time.
Hall had expressed a desire to be reappointed to the CBO director post for another term, according to a source familiar with the discussions, but Enzi ultimately opted to go in a different direction.
The Wyoming Republican valued transparency and disclosure at the CBO, something Hall actively tried to promote during his tenure at the agency. Nonetheless, over time Enzi had grown dissatisfied with the level of communication and updates he was getting from the CBO under Hall’s leadership, according to the source.
While it wasn’t clear Tuesday what Enzi’s specific complaints were, the CBO operates under rules that require it to keep certain information confidential. That includes informal, preliminary estimates that the agency provides at the request of committee staff, allowing the consideration of different approaches before a specific legislative path is chosen.
Enzi’s office did not respond to questions about Swagel. Efforts to reach Swagel on Tuesday night were unsuccessful.
©2019 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved
Visit CQ Roll Call at www.rollcall.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
In The News
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday pressing for added funds to help veterans see private doctors as part of any deal to raise the debt ceiling and tight appropriations caps. Pelosi’s letter opens a new front in the... Read More
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed the state's new spending plan this week, a plan that closes the $3.7 billion deficit he inherited when he took office in January without raising taxes. “For years, instability in the state’s finances has resulted in slow growth and volatility in... Read More
WASHINGTON - The U.S. budget deficit increased by $140 billion during the first nine months of the current fiscal year, rising to $747.1 billion, the Treasury Department said Thursday. The department said the deficit for the current fiscal year through June is up 23.1% over the... Read More
When California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the state budget into law this week, he also extended health care coverage to low-income, undocumented young adults through the state's Medicaid program. Since 2016, California has allowed children under 18 to receive taxpayer-backed healthcare despite immigration status, but with... Read More
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Tuesday didn’t rule out voting on a debt limit increase before the August recess, though she indicated the need to raise the discretionary spending caps for fiscal 2020 is still an integral part of the discussions. “Let’s see... Read More
Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy cut $444 million from the state’s operating budget last week, a move he said was critical to moving closer to a balanced budget without raising taxes or reducing the annual Permanent Fund dividend paid to every Alaskan. The move touched off a... Read More