George W. Bush's chief economist to lead research at nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office
Former US President George W. Bush (AFP Photo/Ronald Martinez)

Republican lawmakers on Friday appointed a former White House economist with a conservative pedigree to head Congress's traditionally nonpartisan research body for budget policy.


Keith Hall, who served as chief economist on former President George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, will take the reins at the Congressional Budget Office in April.

The CBO plays a central role in U.S. lawmaking by serving as an official scorekeeper in budget issues. Hall's appointment shows how Republicans are putting their stamp on the capital's institutions since gaining a majority in both houses of Congress in November.

Congress recently has moved to make the CBO consider whether tax cuts might boost economic growth and therefore not increase the deficit, a controversial methodology among economists known as "dynamic scoring."

Hall has publicly endorsed a variety of conservative positions, from warnings against higher minimum wages to critiques of regulations as job-killing. His position on dynamic scoring is unclear.

"Hall definitely would not be considered a Democrat," said former Republican budget staffer Bill Hoagland. "He is right of center but would definitely not be out on a limb on the far right."

The CBO assesses whether proposals will increase or decrease the federal deficit, and is a respected voice on economic challenges from fiscal sustainability to the stagnant incomes of middle-class America.

"He has dedicated his career to ... providing policy makers and the public with superior economic analysis," Senate Budget Committee Chairman Senator Mike Enzi, a Republican, said in a statement.

Enzi and House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, also a Republican, have the power to appoint CBO directors, and Hall will serve until 2019. He will replace Doug Elmendorf, who was appointed to head the CBO by Democrats in 2009.

Hall is chief economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission and has also served in the Treasury, Labor and Commerce departments. He has also worked as a research fellow at the Mercatus Center in Arlington, Virginia, a prominent university center for conservative economics.

His policy views do not always square with those of more conservative Republicans.

Last April, he testified before the Senate Budget Committee on how to fight rising income inequality, a favored target for President Barack Obama's Democratic Party but something many Republicans say is not a problem.

"We should focus on jobs if our goal is to have a significant impact on income inequality," Hall said then.

(This story has been refiled to correct "Republicans" to "Republican" in first paragraph)

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Jason Lange in Washington; Editing by Lisa Lambert and Christian Plumb)