It's up to Congress
I spoke at an event on how the government can encourage innovation yesterday. And as often happens with this topic, the Q&A focused on the way Congress treats the research and development tax credit. Rather than simply setting it into law, it keeps passing small extensions for the policy. It's been doing this for 28 years. One woman asked whether this wasn't the Congressional Budget Office's fault. It was easier for Congress to justify -- and offset -- a year or two of the credit rather than its cost stretching indefinitely into the future.
That's partially true, to be fair. There are technical questions about whether the CBO should score investments and tax changes differently than it does. But it's hardly the real issue here. When politicians want to pass a large policy without paying for it, they just do it. Look at the Bush tax cuts and the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit. When they don't want to take that step, they point to the CBO scores. And as Brad Plumer writes, floor time often gets used similarly:
Yesterday, George Voinovich (R-Ohio) told reporters: "Anybody that's being intellectually honest has got to say we do not have the time to do anything meaningful at this point in time when it comes to climate change." That's not literally true. There's plenty of time left. Months, in fact. Senators could skip the August recess, take their jobs seriously, and get to work addressing perhaps the biggest issue facing the country (and planet). Republicans could stop senselessly filibustering every little Senate procedure. The clock may be winding down, yes, but that's not because of some abstract celestial force. It's not a logical necessity. It's a conscious choice that individual senators are making.
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