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Democrats and White House attack CBO for scoring permanent 10-year costs of Biden spending bill

The CBO estimates that the Build Back Better Act would add about $3 trillion to deficits over a 10-year period.

December 15, 2021 2:14pm

Updated: December 16, 2021 2:25pm

Democrats and the White House are attacking the Congressional Budget Office for scoring the permanent 10-year costs of President Joe Biden's spending bill after the House passed its version with several expiration dates for the new federal benefit programs inside the bill.

The CBO's original estimate of the House version of the legislation was that it would add $367 billion to the deficit. Despite the CBO's estimate, the Democrat-led House passed the legislation.

Republican leaders later requested the CBO score the permanent cost of the House version over a 10-year period, assuming Congress would reauthorize the new benefit programs established in the bill, such as universal pre-K and child care support. The CBO found that the legislation without the Democrats' expiration dates would add nearly $3 trillion to deficits over 10-years. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the CBO's 10-year cost estimate is "a fake CBO score that is not based on the actual bill that anybody is voting on."

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jaypal, a Washington Democrat, criticized the CBO for releasing the cost estimate for the permanent bill.

"CBO scores are outdated to start with in terms of what and how they assess," she wrote on Twitter. "Many new ideas w/out economic data to help generate a score never get scored accurately. Future savings, inclu. reductions in poverty, wellbeing of planet, don't get scored.

"On top of that, if you now tell CBO that they should score not based on what is in the bill but an assumption of what happens if all the programs in the bill get extended for some period of time, that topples all credibility of scores. That's fictional scoring." 

Jaypal argued that the legislation would result in savings over a timeframe through 2041, referring to the estimated tax revenue from the tax rate increases on corporations and wealthy individuals in the package. The White House estimates that the legislation, as currently written, would reduce the deficit by $112 billion.

However, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget's analysis shows that the tax revenue "offsets" in the legislation are not enough to cover the costs of its new spending programs, the continuation of the expanded child tax credit, lifting the state and local tax deduction cap, and tax rebates for purchasing electric cars.

The CRFB's cost analysis squared with the CBO's score of the 10-year budget impact of the bill. The CRFB found that continuing the programs in the legislation would result in $3.2 trillion being added to the nation's debt.

"The Build Back Better Act relies on a substantial amount of short-term policies and arbitrary sunsets to reduce its cost, raising the possibility of deficit-financed extensions in future years," the CRFB wrote in its analysis. "A more robust and fiscally responsible package would not rely on these gimmicks to achieve deficit neutrality."

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