House Democrats remain divided over President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, calling for more information on the impact on current and future economies of the multitrillions in spending as leadership scrambles to unite the party for Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
On Thursday, Pelosi (D-Calif.) was unable to garner enough support to pass both bills, as lawmakers attempted to iron out various provisions in the $1.75 trillion budget reconciliation package — an ongoing theme on the Hill in the past few months.
The speaker’s struggle to unite her caucus continued Friday.
It is unclear if the House leadership has the whip count to pass either of the bills. When asked by reporters around 9:30 a.m. how the count was looking, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) said, “I haven’t started counting yet.” Two hours later, Clyburn told reporters he was “trying to find out.”
In recent weeks, Democrats have repeatedly claimed the massive spending package will pay for itself through corporate taxes and closing tax loopholes for wealthy Americans over 10 years.
The package was originally proposed to cost $3.5 trillion and was brought down to $1.75 trillion after weeks of negotiations between moderates and progressives. The White House claims it will be paid for through nearly $2 trillion in offsets.
However, on Thursday, the Penn Wharton Budget Model released its own estimate of costs for the package — which appears to be nearly double the current estimate, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In its estimates, Penn Wharton found the Build Back Better framework could actually cost around $1.87 trillion and only raise $1.56 trillion in offsets over 10 years.
Penn Wharton also estimated that if all the provisions in the bill were made permanent, it would increase the spending by $3.98 trillion while the tax revenue would stay at $1.55 trillion over 10 years.
The House reconvened at 8 a.m. Friday to continue work on the legislation in hopes to pass it the same day. Democrats — particularly moderates — have continued to express hesitation over the lack of scoring from the Congressional Budget Office, climate language and immigration.
Several members met with Pelosi on Friday morning, as the speaker and her whip team attempted to close the gap in the party. But some, including Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine), are still holding out and waiting for a CBO score — something that could take several weeks.
But that is something Pelosi, in the past, has criticized Republicans for — pushing votes without an official CBO score, noting Americans have a right to know the “impact” of legislation.
“Americans have a right to know #Trumpcare’s impact on their lives. Rs shouldn’t vote without an updated CBO score,” Pelosi tweeted in March 2017 when Republicans attempted to pass former President Donald Trump’s changes to the Affordable Care Act.
Two months later, the now-speaker slammed her colleagues across the aisle for attempting to move forward without a CBO score again, saying, “REMINDER: Huge changes are being made to #Trumpcare as @PRyan tries to jam this bill through without an updated CBO score of its impacts.”
Earlier this week, several moderate House Democrats pushed for the CBO score, saying they cannot support the Build Back Better Act until they “have had a chance to review these scores which provide the true cost of the legislation,” according to a letter obtained by The Hill.
A CBO score has been released for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which found it would add $256 billion in debt over 10 years.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) slammed her colleague’s desire for fiscal clarity over the historic level of spending Friday, calling requests for a CBO score “sudden.”
“Can’t wait for the full on slammed news cycle about how conservative Dems held up Biden’s bill the week of the elections for sudden demands for CBO scores and tax cuts for people with $1 million+ incomes,” she said in response to a tweet about Rep. Henry Culler (D-Texas) saying there are enough moderates to tank a procedural vote on the budget reconciliation.
“Won’t hold my breath for it though.”
On Thursday, the Joint Committee on Taxation issued a report scoring the $1.75 spending package, noting it would raise $1.5 trillion over 10 years. In a “Dear Colleague” letter sent the same day, Pelosi cited the score in an attempt to alleviate moderates’ concerns, saying the analysis affirms “the bill’s fully paid-for status.”
Given the hesitancy, one moderate Democrat in the House believes “only the Speaker knows” how things will play out.
On Friday, Biden urged his party to pass the bills, telling reporters he planned to “make some calls.”
“I’m asking every House member — member the House Representatives, to vote yes on both of these bills right now,” Biden said.
“Send the infrastructure bill to my desk, send the Build Back Better bill to the Senate. Let’s build on incredible economic progress. Build on what we’ve already done. And this will be such a boost when it occurs,” he added.
“Let’s get this done. And I’ll be back to answer some of your questions when they pass,” Biden concluded.