Finance

CBO ‘unclear’ when it will have cost estimate of House reconciliation bill

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The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said Wednesday that it is “unclear” when it will complete a cost estimate of the entirety of the Democratic-backed social spending package approved by House committees.

“The legislation being considered by the House is complex, and provisions in some committees’ recommendations interact with those of other committees,” CBO Director Phillip Swagel said in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “Moreover, the agency has had to devote substantial resources to providing technical assistance as committees continue to modify their proposals.”

Democrats are aiming to enact a massive social spending package that advances many of President Biden’s key priorities in areas such as education, child care, health care and climate, and that would be offset at least in part through tax increases on wealthy individuals and corporations. They plan to pass this legislation through the budget reconciliation process, so that the bill can pass without any Republicans votes in the Senate.

Thirteen House committees advanced portions of the social-spending package by Sept. 15, and the House Budget Committee then compiled those portions.

The CBO said Wednesday that it has only finished cost estimates for four of the committees’ bill portions, and expects to finish estimates for another two committees’ portions this week. CBO hasn’t finished an estimate of the package in its entirety.

“The agency has not estimated how the entire package would affect direct spending, revenues, deficits, or spending that would be subject to appropriation,” Swagel wrote. “CBO also has not completed its analysis of all of the mandates that the bill might impose on intergovernmental or private-sector entities.”

CBO said that the bill is complicated because it would create some new programs and substantially increase funding in other areas. The scorekeeper also noted that provisions advanced by some House committees are related to provisions from other committees, and it can’t complete the estimates for those proposals until after it finishes analyzing the interactions.

CBO also said that it is providing technical assistance to House committees as they work to make potential changes to the reconciliation package, and has also been focusing on other bills as well, such as the stopgap spending bill Congress passed last week.

The House has yet to schedule a vote on the reconciliation legislation advanced by committees. 

It is likely that any final piece of legislation that Biden signs into law will have some differences from the House committees’ work. House Democrats had aimed to include $3.5 trillion in new spending and tax cuts in their bill, but moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) want the top-line figure to be considerably less.

Tags budget reconciliation package CBO Congressional Budget Office Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Mitch McConnell social spending package
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