How the Build Back Better Act Died

The Biden-Harris administration’s Build Back Better (BBB) Act is a bad spending bill. But it wasn’t until Friday, December 10, 2021 that anyone fully appreciated how bad it really is.

That was the day the Congressional Budget Office released its estimate of the full cost of H.R. 5376, the legislation containing the BBB Act’s spending. In its updated analysis, the CBO dropped the pretense that politicians would allow the bill’s new spending and welfare measures to expire.

Putting expiration dates on the proposed new spending is the main gimmick the bill’s writers used to hide its full cost from the public. Without that trick, the nonpartisan CBO analysts found the BBB Act will cost $2.8 trillion more over 10 years than they previously indicated.

Why the Build Back Better Act’s Budget Gimmick Is a Sham

Writing in the New York Post, the Manhattan Institute’s Brian Riedl explains why the Build Back Better Act’s built-in expiration dates are a sham:

Recent history, though, shows that such future offsets are extraordinarily unlikely. Instead, Democrats are playing one of the oldest budget games in Washington: Hook taxpayers on a “temporary” benefit and then count on future lawmakers not daring to take away an existing benefit from voters, even if no new offsets can be found.

Look no further than last week. The day before CBO released the permanent score of Build Back Better, Sen. Schumer, Rep. Pelosi, and Congressional Democrats voted to delay or cancel the $80 billion in automatic spending cuts that had been required to offset a portion of the American Rescue Plan that had been signed in March. Canceling these automatic cuts has become so routine that most of the media did not even cover it.

In fact, this practice goes back for decades. The 2001 tax cuts were enacted under reconciliation rules that required expirations after 10 years. A bipartisan majority later made the law permanent for nearly all taxpayers without offsets.

Impact on the National Debt

100% of the new spending now hidden by the budget gimmick would have to be covered by new borrowing by the federal government. The Democrats in the U.S. Congress just unanimously voted to increase the U.S. government’s debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion. While that sets the nation’s new debt ceiling up to $31.5 trillion, it won’t pay for much of the BBB Act’s new spending. The debt ceiling will have to be raised even higher if it ever passes.

The Build Back Better Act Gets Shelved

Knowing the full price tag for the BBB Act’s spending over 10 years has already had a major impact. On December 15, 2021, the bill was shelved until 2022 because it became clear it was going nowhere anytime soon. Since the Build Back Better Act’s new spending increases inflation and reduces economic growth more than what would happen without it, that was good news.

The Build Back Better Act Dies

Better news soon followed on Sunday, December 19, 2021, when Senator Joe Manchin declared he would not support the Build Back Better Act:

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced on “Fox News Sunday” that he will not vote for President Biden’s “mammoth” climate and social spending bill, essentially killing the White House’s top legislative priority.

“I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation, I just can’t. I tried everything humanly possible, I can’t get there” he told guest host Bret Baier.

“You’re done – this is a no,” Baier said.

“This is a no on this legislation,” Manchin responded. “I have tried everything I know to do,” he said, closing the door on Democratic hopes that he might be persuaded to change his mind.

With a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate, Manchin’s declaration means the BBB Act is now dead in its current form because the partisan spending bill has no Republican support.

All in all, it took just nine days for the Build Back Better Act to die after the CBO exposed how much it would really cost.

Craig Eyermann is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.
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