The congressional jockeying over legislation that would block a federally recognized Indian nation from opening a Las Vegas-style casino on reservation land in Arizona reached a disturbing crescendo last week. Senior advisers to a group of House Republican lawmakers misled columnists and reporters about the measure's projected cost to taxpayers.
Aides to Arizona GOP Reps. David Schweikert, Paul Gosar, Matt Salmon, and Trent Franks took umbrage with an October 26th RedState column, "The Billion Dollar Bill No One Is Talking About," in which H.R. 308, a narrow Indian gaming bill with an outsized price tag, was criticized for its potentially billion dollar impact on taxpayers, as forecast by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office earlier this year.
The quartet's aides, which included chiefs of staff and legislative directors, argued the CBO scoring was inaccurate. By way of proof they repeatedly made reference to an alleged review of the proposed legislation's scoring by Congressman Tom Price, the Georgia deficit hawk who chairs the Budget Committee.
Congressman Schweikert's chief of staff, in the first of a stream of emails complaining about the column, made reference to "Chairman Price's updated zero score." Others, including the legislative director for Congressman Gosar wrote, "I am told that Chairman Price has updated the score and concluded it is zero."
Those comments mirror what Congressman Franks' office told the Phoenix, Arizona Daily News-Sun days later. In part, the paper reported that, "Franks' office pointed out a separate House Budget Committee analysis [that] concluded there would be no financial impact if the casino were prohibited from going forward."
Asked repeatedly to share the Budget Committee analysis, the aides demurred, saying only they understood that the report existed and that it concluded the legislation would invite no additional expenses for the taxpayers.
But, no such report exists. A senior Budget Committee member confirmed Wednesday in an email that the panel had not made the determination that the legislation would cost nothing.
There are a great many nuances where this legislation is concerned, but the Congressional Budget Office’s score is not among them. And neither is the tribe’s uninterrupted winning streak in federal courts, which stands, as of this week, at 18 positive judgements.
Congressman Schweikert, Gosar, Salmon, and Franks rate among the most Conservative members of the House delegation. But they're wrong on this legislation. And their staff members are willfully deceiving the press and wrongly trading on the impeccable credentials of Rep. Price.
Shame on them.