Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have blasted Democrats’ spending plans and asked for information on the “true cost” of Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending bill in a letter sent to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
Since its earliest stages, Republicans across both chambers of Congress have opposed the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, now known as the Build Back Better Act. Democrats have called the bill a “human infrastructure” package, intended to be passed alongside the bipartisan $1.2 trillion hard infrastructure bill. Both bills are part of President Joe Biden’s ambitious agenda.
To pass the bill through the Senate, Democrats are using the reconciliation process. This process, which is limited certain forms of spending and revenue bills, can pass through the upper chamber by a simple majority, avoiding the normal 60 vote threshold to end a filibuster.
Thus far, no Republicans have come out in favor of the bill.
“Democrats are in the midst of passing a partisan bill with multi-trillion dollar implications for federal spending, revenues, and deficits,” The letter, addressed to CBO Director Dr. Phillip Swagel, states. (pdf).
McConnell and Graham said that because of “the Majority’s intent to completely ignore Senate committees” as well as the “limited debate” allowed on the reconciliation bill, “it is critical that the [CBO] provide Senators and the public with information related to the fiscal consequences of the reckless changes being proposed.”
The senators also accused the House of “process[ing] legislation in a manner meant to hide the true cost to American taxpayers.”
Despite Democratic leadership’s intention to hold a vote on the bill by the end of September, continued infighting among the Democrats’ caucus forced leadership to extend a new deadline to the end of October. Though a final draft of the bill is far from ready, Democratic leaders have insisted that taxes will not increase for anyone making less than $400,000 per year.
Leaders, including the president, have been trying to navigate a path forward between progressive demands and moderate expectations. Much of this negotiating has been done behind closed-doors.
McConnell and Graham criticized this closed-door policymaking, musing that Democrats are keeping tight-lipped about the bill “in order to avoid making estimates available.”
They listed several questions for the CBO.
First, they noted that only four out of thirteen House committees had reported having received cost estimates for their reconciliation proposal, and asked Swagel when these estimates would be available for the other nine committees.
Even Democrats have noted the lack of transparency.
A proponent of the bill, Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) said during a hearing of the House Ways & Means Committee that she and other House Democrats had not received a great deal of information about the bill.
“I don’t know how much we’re spending, how much we’re raising, how we’re spending some of the money, how we’re raising any of the money,” Murphy said at the time. She added that without more information on the bill, she would be forced to hesitantly vote against it.
They also asked for information on the gross level of new spending from the bill as well as how much it is projected to raise the deficit. Both of these figures, however, remain very up in the air as Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) recently doubled down on their opposition to a $3.5 trillion bill.
This has left leaders scrambling to find a compromise price tag acceptable to all factions of the party. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that it was “self-evident” that the final bill would be less than $3.5 trillion.
The senators listed a slew of other questions, about specific components of the bill, asking for a response by Wednesday. At the time of publication, Swagel has not yet responded to this request.