GOP lawmakers who dismissed cost of tax law very concerned about cost of jobs bill

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The Congressional Budget Office warned the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act would add way more to the deficit, but they backed it anyway.

Congressional Republicans are pointing to a budget estimate for the bipartisan infrastructure package as an excuse to oppose it, citing data from an agency they previously rejected when trying to pass their own massive tax law.

The Congressional Budget Office is a non-partisan agency that examines legislation and predicts how much money they will cost the treasury. These "scores" are done by economists to help Congress make informed decisions about the budget process.

After it released a partial estimate of the budget impacts of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on Thursday, several Republican senators opposing the legislation, along with some of their House colleagues, seized on the data as reason to oppose the package.

"The CBO estimates the infrastructure bill would add $256 billion to deficits," complained Texas Sen. John Cornyn.

"CBO now says the bipartisan infrastructure bill will add $256 billion to our debt (I’m shocked)," tweeted Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson. "Will enough Republican senators still help Schumer, Pelosi, and Sanders further mortgage our children’s future?"

Florida Sen. Rick Scott wrote, "Florida families deserve better than more reckless spending that drives inflation and prices even higher. The @cbo report proves that we can’t afford this $1.2 TRILLION unpaid for 'infrastructure' spending bill."

And his fellow Florida senator, Marco Rubio, tweeted separately, "The massive infrastructure bill is NOT, as its authors claim, 'fully paid for.'"

All four voted against beginning debate on the infrastructure framework in late July, suggesting that they were opposed to the package regardless of the estimate.

House Republicans were similarly critical of the legislation, in the wake of the CBO score.

"Today CBO confirmed what @housebudgetGOP already concluded this week: the math in the infrastructure bill just doesn’t add up," said Missouri Rep. Jason Smith. "It’s not fully paid for. Americans deserve to know how the federal government actually plans to pay for the bill."

"We cannot afford the reckless infrastructure bill. 'CBO: Infrastructure Bill Would Add $256 Billion to Deficit,'" Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado tweeted.

In the agency's estimate, it noted that the $256 billion figure is incomplete because it does not take into account the package's "macroeconomic effects" — in other words, the economists did not consider the economic growth that would come from the $550 billion in new investments in transportation, water system, electrical, and broadband infrastructure.

In a statement on Thursday, Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) noted that some of the "savings and additional revenue" that will fund the bill simply could not be taken into account in the agency's score.

The GOP criticism of the bipartisan bill stands in contrast with the party's past rejection of CBO predictions.

In 2017, congressional Republicans enacted then-President Donald Trump's Tax Cut and Jobs Act — a bill that slashed tax rates for the richest Americans and corporations while raising taxes for 10 million families — without a single Democratic vote.

The CBO's cost estimate for the legislation in December that year indicated that the Joint Committee on Taxation's staff and its own economists predicted "an increase in the deficit of $1,455 billion over the next 10 years."

Despite an estimated deficit increase more than five times larger than the current infrastructure package, Sens. Cornyn, Rubio, and Johnson voted for the tax bill in the Senate at that time. Buck and Smith did the same in the House.

Scott was governor of Florida at the time, but he strongly endorsed the Trump tax cuts as well.

While most Republicans in the Senate opposed consideration of the bipartisan infrastructure package, polling shows those refusals are out of step with the American public.

Two polls over the past week by Data for Progress, a nonprofit progressive think tank, found 65% and 71% of Americans back the bipartisan infrastructure package.

Both polls showed at least a plurality of likely Republican voters were in support of the plan.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.