The Corner

Politics & Policy

CBO Cost Estimate a Disaster for Democrats

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) delivers remarks at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., November 5, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

The Congressional Budget Office finally released its full cost estimate of the Democrats’ Build Back Better legislation on Thursday. The American people were promised repeatedly that this social-spending bill was not only paid for, but that it would cost $0. As Phil wrote already, it doesn’t.

Democrats will try to claim a win with this estimate nonetheless. They are convinced that they can raise $400 billion through better tax enforcement, way more than the $207 billion the CBO credits them with, and enough to compensate for the bill’s overall $160 billion shortfall. We have good reason to believe the CBO over the Democrats. Some Democrats’ estimates have ranged as high as $1 trillion in revenue, with the Treasury department saying $700 billion, and the White House now saying $400 billion. The CBO’s estimates have been much lower, and they have been consistent over a long period of time, no matter which party is in control, stretching back way before Build Back Better even existed.

Democrats pulled every budget gimmick available to them to get this cost estimate, and they still came up short. They made many provisions in the bill temporary that they fully intend to be permanent. Making them temporary now means that their full costs won’t be incorporated into this cost estimate. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that if the supposedly temporary programs eventually become permanent, it will increase the deficit impact by as much as $2.5 trillion.

Speaker Pelosi has announced there will be a vote on Build Back Better tonight, so it will likely pass the House. Unlike the bipartisan infrastructure bill, it has not yet passed the Senate. Democratic senator Joe Manchin has said budget gimmicks would make him hesitant to support the bill. He also told NR’s John McCormack that if it does not include the Hyde amendment, that means the bill is “dead on arrival.” Build Back Better does not include the Hyde amendment. If Manchin is true to his word, he will not vote for this bill in anything like its current form.

This bill is Democrats’ last gasp for this Congress. Biden’s job approval has been in free fall since June. Republicans have an unprecedented ten-point lead in the generic congressional ballot polling. The voters delivered blows to Democrats in Virginia and, even more shockingly, New Jersey. Democrats have an incredibly slim legislative majority to begin with. And they’re going to try to ram through a bill that they’ve lied about for months whose biggest single item is a tax deduction mostly for blue-state, well-off voters.

They’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’ in 2022.


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