GOP asks Congressional Budget Office to exaggerate costs of Build Back Better plan

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Rep. Jason Smith and Sen. Lindsey Graham claim that Democrats' true 'legislative intent' is to make the Build Back Better plan's temporary programs permanent.

Congressional Democrats are waiting on the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to confirm that the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better jobs plan is fully paid for. Top House and Senate Republicans are demanding they also evaluate how much it would cost if its temporary programs are made permanent.

On Friday, House Democrats took the first steps toward passing their version of the package — which would invest in climate change, clean energy, health care, child care, universal preschool, home care, and child tax credits — and agreed to vote on it in the upcoming days. Although a preliminary estimate by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation supported President Joe Biden's claim that the package will be more than paid for by spending cuts and additional revenue, they agreed to give the Congressional Budget Office time to confirm that.

But rather than wait for the budgetary score, Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) baselessly claimed Tuesday, "Washington Democrats are using budget gimmicks to deceive the American people about the real cost of their tax & spending bill."

"Today, I joined @LindseyGrahamSC to call on the Congressional Budget Office to produce a score that reflects the full price tag of @POTUS's agenda," Smith tweeted, posting a letter to the director of the Congressional Budget Office signed by him and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that demands an evaluation of what 17 temporary provisions in the bill would cost if they were extended permanently.

"We kindly ask for this information to be provided no later than one day after transmittal of the CBO cost estimate for this legislation or 48 hours before the U.S. House of Representatives considers the FY 2022 reconciliation measure, whichever comes first," they wrote. Smith and Graham serve as ranking members of the House and Senate budget committees, respectively.

Biden and progressives in Congress originally proposed a $3.5 trillion Build Back Better framework, which would have included additional programs, such as free community college, and more permanent changes. As a compromise with more conservative Democrats, they agreed to cut the total in half and scale back some of the investments.

The expanded child tax credit, passed earlier this year as part of the American Rescue Plan to give families up to $300 a month per child in 2021, is extended under the plan to 2022. While Biden and many in Congress would love to see it made permanent, this legislation does not do that.

Under Graham and Smith's logic, Democrats should now have to explain how to pay for the program forever rather than for the single year that is included in the package, because, they claim in their letter, they believe that making the provisions permanent is the Democrats' true "legislative intent" in their "reckless tax and spending scheme."

While Smith now suggests Democrats are using "gimmicks" to mislead about the cost of the legislation, he and his GOP colleagues had no such concerns four years ago when they passed then-President Donald Trump's Tax Cut and Jobs Act, which slashed tax rates for corporations and the very rich and relied on similar temporary provisions.

By making cuts to individual tax rates temporary, critics said, Republicans were hiding additional costs of their bill.

"In some ways, this whole bill is a gimmick," Stan Collender, an expert on budgets and former Democratic congressional staffer, told the New York Times in November 2017. "Rather than just do a tax cut that costs $1.5 trillion, they decided to do a $2 trillion-plus tax cut and lie about it costing $1.5 trillion."

In June, several House Republicans falsely accused Biden of breaking his promise not to raise taxes on those earning under $400,000 because he did not plan to extend all of Trump's expiring 2017 tax cuts.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.