Republicans and Democrats rushed on Thursday to line up a Senate vote to pass the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, working to clear away the final obstacles despite a finding by Congress’s official scorekeeper that the bill would add more than $250 billion to the federal deficit over the next decade.

The flurry of activity came after three days of plodding work on the package, which would devote $550 billion in new money to rebuilding roads, bridges and rail systems and funding new climate resiliency and broadband access initiatives.

It followed an estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on the cost of the legislation, which was one of the last major hurdles to passing it. The C.B.O. calculated that nearly half of the new spending — $256 billion — would be financed by adding to the nation’s debt between 2021 to 2031, contradicting the claims of Republican and Democratic proponents that the measure would fully pay for itself.

Fiscal watchdogs have warned that lawmakers have used budgetary gimmicks to obscure the true cost.

Still, with their August vacations looming, senators appeared ready to move forward with the bill, a key component of President Biden’s agenda.

In a statement defending the legislation they helped craft, Senators Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, and Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, insisted that there were actually $519 billion in offsets.

“The American people strongly support this bipartisan legislation and we look forward to working with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle and President Biden to get it passed through Congress and signed into law,” the two senators said.

A new analysis released by the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Wharton Budget Model on Thursday estimated that the legislation would authorize $548 billion in new infrastructure investments. Changes to the tax code would finance $132 billion of that, the analysis said, but the remaining $351 billion would be deficit spending. The legislation would have no significant impact on economic growth through 2050, the analysis concluded, rejecting assertions by the Republicans and Democrats who wrote it that growth resulting from their plan would generate $56 billion in savings.

In its report on Thursday, the C.B.O. said that it did not estimate how any macroeconomic effects of the legislation would influence the federal budget.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has also taken issue with the lawmakers’ accounting. For instance, senators estimated $200 billion in savings from unused funds from earlier pandemic relief packages. But the committee said that those savings had already occurred, so they should not count as an offset for the cost of the infrastructure bill, which it estimated would have a net cost of about $350 billion.

Marc Goldwein, the senior policy director at the committee, said that the C.B.O.’s deficit projections were not capturing the additional spending that Congress would be authorizing in the bill and that the “offsets” did not appear to raise as much revenue as lawmakers anticipated. He estimated that, if enacted, it could actually add more than $400 billion to the national debt.

“It’s a bit worse than I thought,” Mr. Goldwein said.

Republicans have expressed growing concern about the cost of the Biden administration’s economic agenda, arguing that the flood of new spending would cause inflation and inflict grave economic damage. They have also declared that they will not support raising the statutory debt limit, which the Treasury Department says technically expired at the beginning of this month.

“This is absolutely unacceptable, especially at a time when Montana families are already dealing with soaring inflation and skyrocketing prices on everything from gas to groceries,” said Senator Steve Daines, Republican of Montana, who confirmed he would not support the bill shortly after the budget office released its analysis.

Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida and the chairman of his party’s Senate campaign arm, declared in a similar statement that “I fully support spending on infrastructure,” but “we cannot afford this reckless spending.”

The C.B.O. said on Thursday, in a report unrelated to the infrastructure legislation, that it projected the federal budget deficit would hit $3 trillion this year and average $1.2 trillion per year through 2031.

Source From Nytimes

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