With the CBO experience in mind, Congress must soon face up to its loss of control over regulatory policymaking in recent years and commit to a program of capacity-building and process reform designed to meaningfully reassert itself as the top-line decision-maker on important matters pertaining to our administrative state. By no means would this entail a complete role reversal in which Congress becomes capable of effectively deciding every policy question in advance; the build-up of capacity in the executive branch makes this a practical impossibility at this point. But it does not take much imagination to picture a Congress empowered by a CRO to do more than jeer at administrators’ decisions.
What would the CRO look like and do? In terms of size, CBO is a decent target for long-term development. Congress’s budgetary agency currently has a staff of around 235 people and a budget of $45 million per year. This is, of course, a pittance relative to total federal spending and only around one percent of total legislative expenditures. And the cost of CBO’s funding looks all the more modest when one considers the office’s annual output: 80 to 90 reports (including analyses of the president’s proposed budget and economic forecasts), 500 scores of the costs of proposed legislation, and hundreds of other estimates of the costs of government activities. Given the importance of regulatory policy to the nation’s economy, arguably on par with federal expenditures, it makes sense to devote a similar level of resources to the CRO. The workload, as described below, would also be similar….(Read more at National Affairs)