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US agency withdraws tax report challenging Republican ideas

Kim Dixon
Thursday, 1 Nov 2012 | 9:47 PM ET

WASHINGTON, Nov 1 (Reuters) - A U.S. government agency has withdrawn a report that challenged Republican ideas about taxes and economic growth - an action that drew fire from Democrats who accused it on Thursday of bowing to political pressure.

Republican lawmakers blasted the Congressional Research Service (CRS) report when it was issued in September and then went to the agency to complain. The report suggested that lower tax rates on the wealthy are not linked to economic growth, an item of faith among many conservatives.

The CRS, a non-partisan arm of the Library of Congress, withdrew the report in an unusual move late last month, the agency confirmed on Thursday.

Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell and others in his party had protested the report's methods and called its tone partisan. A top official at CRS made the decision to pull back the report, according to a CRS employee who spoke on condition of anonymity.

``As we would with any CRS analysis we felt fell short of their standards, our staff shared a litany of concerns with CRS over the methodology, the analysis and the conclusions,'' said Antonia Ferrier, spokeswoman for Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.

Representative Sandy Levin, the top Democrat on the tax-writing House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, called for a probe of the circumstances that led to the withdrawal of the report, which was written by economist Thomas Hungerford.

``I was deeply disturbed to hear that Mr. Hungerford's report was taken down in response to political pressure from Congressional Republicans who had ideological objections to the report's factual findings and conclusion,'' Levin said in a letter to CRS.

News of the report's withdrawal was first published by the New York Times.

A spokeswoman for CRS would not confirm what led the agency to put the report, as she put it, on ``non-distributable status.''

CRS is one of the alphabet soup of government agencies that conduct research for members of Congress. CRS generates its own research topics as well.

These tax analyses have taken on more importance during a presidential campaign in which President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have argued over their tax plans. The election is Tuesday.

Alan Viard, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank, said the report's methods were questionable and incomplete. He said CRS had strayed from its non-partisan mission, contrasting it with the Congressional Budget Office.

``The CBO does such a fantastic job and will draw conclusions no matter whose feathers get ruffled,'' Viard said. ``Unfortunately CRS has not consistently lived up to the high standards set by CBO.''

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