House poised to pass China competition bill without a formal cost estimate: CRFB

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says the House Democrats' COMPETES Act is 'missing' a CBO score and lacks spending offsets to pay for the bill

Updated: February 3, 2022 - 4:26pm

The Democratic-led House of Representatives is poised to vote on a China competition legislation that includes more than $50 billion of funding for computer chipmakers, without knowing the true cost of the full bill.

"Because there is not yet a Congressional Budget Office score of the bill, it is unknown how much it costs, but it has at least $50 billion of emergency appropriations for semiconductor production incentives," the CRFB said in a statement ahead of the expected House vote on the America COMPETES Act Thursday evening.

Maya MacGuineas, president of CRFB, said that "maintaining America’s economic standing by improving our ability to compete with China on research and manufacturing is a worthy investment, but it should not come at the expense of future generations saddled with more debt."

MacGuineas said the Senate-passed United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) of 2021 "missed the mark for its borrowing" and the House’s America COMPETES Act does the same.

"What’s even worse about this process is that we do not even know how much debt it will accrue because CBO has not yet been given the necessary time to release a score," she said. "Emergency designations are for just what the name implies: emergencies. Funding research and manufacturing that will take years to stand up is not an emergency, and it should be funded as any other investment should be funded with offsetting spending cuts or revenue increases."

MacGuineas recommended that lawmakers "fully offset" the bill somehow, rather than add it to the nation’s credit card.
 
"As the House and Senate conference a final bill, they should reconsider whether it is worth borrowing from China to compete with them and instead fully offset any proposed increases in spending or reductions in taxes. An investment worth doing is worth paying for," she said.

"At the very least, they should wait until a CBO score so that lawmakers can actually know how the bill they are voting on affects our nation’s finances. With inflation at a 40-year high and debt projected to mount ever higher over the coming years it’s time to start scrutinizing costs before committing to them," she added.

This week, the U.S. national debt passed $30 trillion for the first time.

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