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Inside Politics

- - Thursday, February 2, 2012

HOUSE

Lawmakers say budget needs 'dynamic scoring'

The House on Thursday voted to take a "dynamic scoring" approach to assessing how legislation affects the economy, a budgetary method that Republicans say will help lawmakers make good decisions but Democrats say is a gimmick aimed at justifying tax cuts.

The bill would direct the Congressional Budget Office to draw up estimates of how major legislation would impact such economic factors as gross domestic product, business investment and employment. The analysis would be in addition to the CBO's traditional estimates of the costs of legislation.

Under the measure, the CBO analysis must include an estimate of the legislation's potential fiscal impact, including how economic changes influence tax revenues.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Tom Price, Georgia Republican, said that by providing lawmakers with more information, "this bill will also encourage pro-growth policy ideas from all of our colleagues that will help get our economy back on track."

But Democrats said "dynamic scoring" was simply a means for Republicans to understate the negative impact of tax cuts. Republicans have long argued that tax cuts ultimately stimulate economic growth.

Democrats also said the bill was written so as to exclude some assessments of how investments in such area as infrastructure impact the economy, and would not include an analysis of the effect of continuing President George W. Bush's tax cuts of 2001 and 2003.

The bill passed 242-179, but it faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

MASSACHUSETTS

In Senate race, GOP's Brown embraces Obama

BOSTON — In 2010, Republican Scott Brown vowed to be the "41st" vote against President Obama's sweeping health care overhaul.

Two years later, the Massachusetts senator still opposes what he calls "Obamacare" but has found a lot more to love about the Democratic president.

While many Republican lawmakers are using Mr. Obama as a campaign foil, Mr. Brown is touting his bipartisanship as he hopes to fend off a challenge from chief Democratic rival Elizabeth Warren.

Mr. Brown has backed key Democratic initiatives and praised Mr. Obama's decision to bypass the Senate and appoint Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Mr. Brown also had a friendly exchange with Mr. Obama after the State of the Union speech during which Mr. Obama urged lawmakers to pass a Brown-sponsored bill banning insider trading by members of Congress.

GOP

Voter turnout numbers shows enthusiasm gap

Voter turnout numbers are pointing to a potential enthusiasm deficit for Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney.

Statistics in the four states that have voted so far show turnout has been strongest where people were energized to vote for somebody else.

Mr. Romney had a big victory in Florida this week. But turnout there was down significantly from four years ago.

In South Carolina, where Mr. Gingrich trounced Mr. Romney, turnout was up considerably.

Turnout was up slightly in the first two states to vote: New Hampshire and Iowa. But Democrats are quick to note that independent voters contributed to the boost. And they say President Obama will be competing for those independents in the fall.

CONGRESS

Lawmakers seek answers on hazing in military

Members of Congress are pressing for hearings on the military's efforts to prevent hazing in the ranks. For one lawmaker, the issue is highly personal.

California Rep. Judy Chu's nephew killed himself in Afghanistan after hours of beatings, repeated pushups and mouthfuls of sand. Three Marines allegedly punished Lance Cpl. Harry Lew after he was caught sleeping on duty.

This week, a judge ruled that one of the three should spend 30 days in jail and have his rank reduced to private. The judge found no evidence the abuse led to the suicide.

Ms. Chu and several lawmakers said at a press conference that Pentagon leaders must make eliminating hazing a top priority and "stop pretending there is no problem."

CONGRESS

Solution to crumbling roads, bridges elusive

Congress is struggling to come up with a solution to the nation's crumbling roads, bridges and transit systems, which are at the point of hindering economic growth.

The problems are numerous. Americans have been driving less due to a slow economy, reducing revenue from the gas tax that pays for transportation improvements. Cars that get better gas mileage are likely to offset any uptick in driving as the economy recovers.

A sweeping House Republican plan to transform federal transportation programs was quickly attacked from the left this week as a giveaway to greedy industries and from the right as big government overspending.

A House transportation committee meeting Thursday to approve the $260 billion, 4 1/2 -year bill was marked by bitter partisanship.

SENATE

Officials face ban on insider trading

The Senate is poised to pass a bill banning insider trading by lawmakers as well as the executive branch.

Lawmakers are reeling from dismal approval ratings and plan a final vote today.

But first senators must consider nearly two dozen amendments, including some that would doom the bill if they passed. But damaging changes are unlikely, given a 93-2 vote on Monday to let the Senate consider the bill.

The bill would make lawmakers and top staffers file a public, online report within 30 days of buying or selling securities.

Republicans insisted on including the executive branch. Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York said Democrats agreed to make sure the bill didn't get bogged down in a partisan dispute.

MONTANA

Proposal reveals $1.9B plan to buy Indian land

HELENA — Federal officials have released their proposal on how they plan to spend $1.9 billion to buy up Native American-owned fractionated land tracts and turn them over to tribes.

The program is part of a $3.4 billion settlement of a class-action lawsuit over Indian land royalties mismanaged by the government.

The Interior Department says in its draft plan released Thursday that it will target the most fractionated lands and the most willing landowners to complete the program within 10 years. The proposal is open to public comment for the next 45 days.

Land fractionation was caused by the 1887 Dawes Act, which split tribal lands into individual allotments often inherited by multiple heirs with each generation.

The Interior Department has identified 88,638 fractionated land tracts owned by nearly 2.8 million people.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports