- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 18, 2021

President Biden’s multitrillion-dollar social welfare and climate change bill does not fully pay for all of its entitlement programs, contrary to assertions long made by the White House.

An in-depth Congressional Budget Office review of the bill, known as the Build Back Better Act, indicates it adds more than $367 billion to the deficit over the next decade.

The CBO, a nonpartisan agency that analyzes federal legislation, says the deficit shrinks to $160 billion after taking into account Mr. Biden’s proposed tax enforcement procedures.

“CBO estimates that enacting this legislation would result in a net increase in the deficit totaling $367 billion over the 2022-2031 period, not counting any additional revenue that may be generated by additional funding for tax enforcement,” CBO Director Phillip Swagel said.

According to the CBO, the bill adds $791 billion to the deficit from 2022 to 2026.



Starting in 2027, the figure decreases as many of Mr. Biden’s most extensive entitlement programs phase out and Trump-era tax cuts expire.

The analysis contradicted Mr. Biden’s frequent boast that his plan for a historic expansion of the social safety net was “fully paid for.”

The CBO also found that several White House proposals for generating revenue to pay for the programs are unsound.

Specifically, Mr. Biden’s plan to hire 87,000 additional IRS agents to crack down on tax scofflaws is estimated to raise only $207 billion over the next decade. The figure is roughly half of the $400 billion that the White House claimed it would raise.

The analysis delivers a blow to Mr. Biden’s roughly $1.75 trillion social welfare and climate bill. Congressional Democrats hoped to narrow the gap between federal income taxes owed and amounts paid by investing $80 billion to hire more IRS agents.

Such revelations shatter one of the main arguments Mr. Biden has used to sell the package to voters: mainly that it “costs zero dollars.”

“The CBO officially confirmed what Republicans already knew,” said Rep. Buddy Carter, Georgia Republican. “The [Build Back Better] agenda is not fully paid for. … Democrats are trying to sell America on a socialist scam.”

The White House pushed back on the CBO analysis shortly after its release, arguing that its own economists say the bill will actually reduce the deficit by $112 billion over the next decade. 

Still, the report could prove a major political headache for Mr. Biden at a delicate time for his domestic agenda.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, plans to hold a vote on the bill before Congress departs Washington at the end of the week for a Thanksgiving holiday.

“Very soon, the American people will have a historic cause for celebration,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “Build Back Better is a spectacular vision. … It will create millions of good-paying jobs, lower families’ costs and cut their taxes while making the wealthiest few and big corporations pay their fair share.”

Several moderate House Democrats have said their support would be contingent on the CBO analysis of the bill lining up with administration projections. Despite those projections being proven inaccurate, some of them now say they’ll vote for the bill anyway. 

“There is a lot of good in this bill, and as a pragmatic Democrat who wants to deliver for my constituents, I am never one to let the perfect become the enemy of the good,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy, Florida Democrat. 

Other moderates are playing coy about how they plan to vote in light of the new data. Rep. Jared Golden, a Maine Democrat who expressed concerns about the bill in recent days, said he would only divulge his vote to local media shortly before the roll call happens. 

Given that Democrats have a narrow majority in the House, Mrs. Pelosi can afford to lose only three members of her conference on any particular vote.

Even before the CBO’s results were official, congressional Democratic leaders and the White House rushed to discredit the agency. The arguments focused mostly on what Democrats viewed as an inability by the CBO to properly vet the bill.

“There’s wide agreement CBO doesn’t have experience analyzing revenue amounts gained from cracking down on wealthy tax cheats who are taking advantage of honest taxpayers,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said.

Complicating matters is that Mrs. Pelosi contributed to the poor CBO results. Over the past month, House Democrats have been working feverishly to expand the package by reinserting programs — including a $213 billion paid family leave proposal and an expansion of the state and local tax deduction — that Mr. Biden had sidelined.

The White House abandoned such provisions last month amid opposition from Senate Democrats.

Since the bill is moving via a budget reconciliation, which allows some spending measures to avert the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster threshold and pass by a simple majority, the upper chamber has what is akin to veto power.

“This bill is going to be wildly different from what the Senate ultimately may do,” said Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican.

The House version of the bill is poised to be the largest expansion of the federal welfare state since the Great Society of the 1960s. If enacted, it will radically transform the relationship between employers and employees.

Apart from paid family leave, the bill offers four years of subsidized health insurance for low-income families in states that have yet to expand Medicaid. That’s on top of a $36 billion Medicare expansion to cover hearing services.

Outside of health care, the bill includes a one-year extension of the expanded child tax credit, which gives parents with kids under the age of 6 approximately $3,600 in direct payments annually.

The legislation also provides for six years of child care subsidies and universal pre-kindergarten for all 3- and 4-year-olds. To combat climate change, the package includes $320 billion in clean energy tax credits, along with $105 billion for environmental resilience programs and a Civilian Climate Corps.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Mr. Swagel’s first name.

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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