Politics

CBO: Bipartisan infrastructure plan will add $256 billion to projected deficits over the next decade

“The Congressional Budget Office estimates that over the 2021-2031 period, enacting Senate Amendment 2137 to H.R. 3684 would decrease direct spending by $110 billion, increase revenues by $50 billion, and increase discretionary spending by $415 billion,” the report said. “On net, the legislation would add $256 billion to projected deficits over that period.”

While the plan has bipartisan support in the Senate, some lawmakers had cited the need for a CBO score before deciding whether to support the measure. It’s unclear how or if Thursday’s report will sway members of Congress who are still making up their minds.

The bill’s two lead negotiators — Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona for the Democrats and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio for the Republicans — said the CBO score did not account for all the ways the bill offset costs.

“The new spending under the bill is offset through a combination of new revenue and savings, some of which is reflected in the formal CBO score and some of which is reflected in other savings and additional revenue identified in estimates, as CBO is limited in what it can include in its formal score,” the senators said in a joint statement.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas predicted the deal will pass the Senate despite the CBO score.

“I think the infrastructure bill will pass,” he said, adding, “It’s got enough support.”

But Cornyn made clear he does not support adding more to the deficit and called the score a “real problem.”

“We’ve pulled out on the stops of Covid-19 because it was literally an emergency and now this is kind of bread and butter legislating and we’re not going to pay for it, we’re going to add more to the deficits and debt,” Cornyn said. “I think that’s a problem. But I think we need to work harder to try and come up with credible payfors.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, said the bipartisan infrastructure bill’s newly released CBO score is “disappointing because we were told that it was paid for.” Grassley, who was one of the GOP senators who voted to advance the bill for a previous procedural vote, said he is still deciding whether he will back the bill going forward.

The Senate has been debating and voting on amendments to the legislation throughout the week. Amendment votes got underway on Monday as bipartisan negotiators raced to finalize the bill text during a rare weekend session, which was finally unveiled Sunday evening. The next step is for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to cut off debate which could come later Thursday.

The massive bipartisan infrastructure package, called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, features $550 billion in new federal spending over five years. The measure invests $110 billion in funding toward roads, bridges and major projects, $66 billion in passenger and freight rail, $65 billion to rebuild the electric grid, $65 billion to expand broadband Internet access, $39 billion to modernize and expand transit systems and $7.5 billion to create the first federal network of charging stations for electric vehicles. The bill additionally includes $55 billion for water infrastructure, $15 billion of which will be directed toward replacing lead pipes.

The package’s negotiators claim that the bill pays for itself. But the bottom line is that the legislation would directly add roughly $350 billion to the deficit, when taking into account $90 billion of spending in new contract authority, said Marc Goldwein, senior vice president at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group that tracks federal spending.

The CBO brushed aside several major provisions that lawmakers said would help pay for the bill, particularly repurposing certain unused Covid relief funds and using the savings generated by certain states terminating pandemic unemployment benefits early. The agency found these measures will provide roughly $22 billion in savings, rather than the roughly $263 billion claimed by lawmakers, Goldwein said.

“You can’t count savings from something that already happened in the past,” he said. “I don’t think this will be a surprise to people who read the legislation.”

In addition, the report found that Federal Communications Commission’s spectrum auctions would generate far less than the $87 billion originally claimed by lawmakers.

The CBO also said that the bill would raise about $50 billion by imposing new superfund fees and changing the tax reporting requirements for cryptocurrencies, among other measures. And the legislation would save money from delaying the implementation of a controversial prescription drug rebate rule, among other items.

Congressional leaders are hoping to pass the bipartisan infrastructure plan in the coming days before turning to a partisan, $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, aimed at delivering on other key parts of President Joe Biden’s agenda.

This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

CNN’s Morgan Rimmer, Manu Raju and Clare Foran contributed to this report.

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