White House warns CBO won’t rule spending bill paid for: report

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White House warns CBO won't rule spending bill paid for: report

As the House of Representatives attempts to vote on a massive $1.75 trillion spending bill this week, the White House reportedly is warning legislators that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office will rule the measure is not fully paid for — contrary to the Biden administration’s promises.

The New York Times reported Monday that the White House “has begun bracing lawmakers for a disappointing estimate from the budget office” and encouraged them to “disregard” that assessment.

House Democrats are waiting for the CBO to release its assessment, or “score,” of the spending bill — also known as the Build Back Better Act — which will determine whether money generated by increased taxes and other measures will cover the legislation’s total costs over the next 10 years. 

According to the report, the White House is predicting the estimate “is likely to find that the cost of the overall package will not be fully paid for with new tax revenue over the coming decade.”

President Biden at a press conference
President Biden has claimed the massive spending bill will cost Americans “zero dollars.”
AFP via Getty Images

President Biden and members of his administration have long touted that the bill will cost “zero dollars,” saying increased corporate taxes, the closing of tax loopholes for wealthy Americans, and other reforms will create enough offsets

Since last week, the CBO has released initial estimates on eight parts of the bill. So far, the agency has found that one of those eight sections — if included in the final legislation — would increase the federal budget deficit by more than $150 billion. A score on the complete legislation is expected on Friday.

According to the Times, senior administration officials are pre-emptively claiming that the CBO is “being overly conservative” in its estimates by failing to take proper account of the money that would be raised by enhanced IRS enforcement.

A chart from the Wharton report.
Last month’s report from the Wharton School of Business disputed the Biden administration’s claims about the spending bill’s cost.

The Build Back Better Act has faced an uphill battle in both the House and Senate for months, and a negative report from the CBO is likely to cause more problems for the administration. Moderate Democrats in the House have been wary of committing to voting in favor of the bill before they see the score, while Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) — a crucial vote in the upper chamber — has insisted the legislation be fully paid for.

Many have questioned whether the Build Back Better Act will actually cost $1.75 trillion, with the US Chamber of Commerce accusing Democrats last week of using accounting “gimmicks” to hide more than $1 trillion in spending. 

“We have the highest inflation in 31 years, employers are struggling to fill a record number of job openings, and the current draft of the reconciliation bill uses gimmicks to cover up well over $1 trillion in spending,” chamber executive vice president and chief policy officer Neil Bradley​ said in a statement.

Biden surrounded by lawmakers signing the infrastructure bill on Nov. 15.
In the midst of the controversy over the spending package, Biden signed the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Getty Images

“It would be the height of irresponsibility for Members of Congress to vote on this multi-trillion-dollar tax-and-spend bill with no clear understanding of its true cost or the real-world impact of the policies,” he added.

Last month, an analysis done by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business found that the taxes used to offset the $1.75 trillion in spending would net approximately $470 billion less than needed to cover the bill. 

The White House has estimated that the new and higher levies would raise $1.995 trillion, but Wharton’s Budget Model estimated they would bring in $1.527 trillion — $468 billion below the White House figure and $223 billion short of the bill’s topline cost.

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