The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) announced that the $1.7 trillion Biden reconciliation bill will add approximately $367 billion to the deficit over a decade. The CBO, which is in charge of assessing the fiscal impacts of congressional bills, also said that the amount of net revenue that will be raised through more strict tax enforcement will be $127 billion over ten years, a significantly lower number than the Administration’s estimates of $400 billion.
The White House had falsely said its “Build Back Better” bill would not increase the debt, a claim that The Washington Post labeled as misleading. Biden tweeted, without evidence, that the flagship bill for his domestic agenda “costs zero dollars” as the legislation would be paid up by increasing taxes to corporations and wealthy Americans. Biden maintained his talking point even after the CBO score was released, with the President tweeting that the bill is going to reduce the deficit by more than $100 billion in the next decade.
The CBO score of the bill could potentially be a significant step in the legislative fate of the bill, with moderate House Democrats saying that they would not vote for the bill until the CBO released its fiscal score. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the Democratic caucus is ready to put the controversial bill to a vote this Thursday, with the House Rules Committee meeting earlier that day and with the Democratic leadership preparing a vote for Thursday night.
However, Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy mounted an 8-hour-long speech with the aim of delaying the passage of the bill, forcing Democrats to reschedule the vote for Friday morning. Although most members of the House have a time limit to address the floor, McCarthy (along with the Speaker of the House and the majority leader) has the right to speak for an unlimited amount of time. Democrats passed the bill by a 220-213 margin, with all Republicans voting against the bill.
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The CBO score could send Biden’s reconciliation bill up for a vote in the House
The reconciliation bill, which only needs a simple majority in both houses to pass, has been in the center of Democratic infighting for months, with progressives trying (and failing) to strong-arm moderates and convince them to pass the $3.5 trillion bill by threatening moderate Democrats and Speaker Pelosi to vote down the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, negotiated earlier this summer unless the larger spending package was passed.
Congressional Democrats have been trying to pass both bills for months, with deadlines coming and going as neither progressives nor moderates would agree on the size of the reconciliation bill, which eventually was cut down from $3.5 trillion to approximately $1.7 trillion.
While Progressive vowed to not get the Infrastructure bill to Biden’s desk until the larger spending bill had passed, the disastrous night for the Democratic Party in the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey changed the political landscape. The party quickly moved to support the bipartisan infrastructure bill with the support of some House Republicans who provided enough votes to send the bill to the President’s desk before passing the reconciliation bill.
Democrats have very slim margins in both houses of Congress, with them only having an eight-seat majority in the House and relying on all 50 Senators voting, in the same way, to allow Vice-President Kamala Harris to cast the tie-breaking vote. Hence, Speaker Pelosi can only afford to lose four defections if she wants to get the bill through Congress, meaning that she will need to have both moderate and progressive Democrats on the same side.
Even if the $1.7 trillion bill gets passed in the House, the legislation still faces a tough road in the Senate. Senator Joe Manchin has been a longtime open skeptic over the content, size, and timing of the massive reconciliation package, with him penning an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal back in September saying that passing a massive spending bill at a time when inflation was record high was not something he was comfortable doing. Most recently, Manchin said that he has “a lot of concerns” over the revised $1.7 trillion spending bill.
While Democrats might feel pressured to pass a spending bill, especially as polls show that Republicans are gaining a significant upper hand in the incoming 2022 midterms, the fact remains that it is Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, not AOC or Pramila Jayapal, who have ultimate veto power over the fate of Biden’s Democratic agenda.
Daniel is a Political Science and Economics student from the University of South Florida. He worked as a congressional intern to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) from January to May 2020. He also is the head of international analysis at Politiks // Daniel es un estudiante de Cs Políticas y Economía en la Universidad del Sur de la Florida. Trabajo como pasante legislativo para el Representate Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) desde enero hasta mayo del 2020. Daniel también es el jefe de análisis internacional de Politiks.