Bipartisan U.S. infrastructure bill does not pay for itself- review

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Senate’s $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill does not pay for itself and would increase federal budget deficits by $256 billion over 10 years, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Capitol Building is pictured in Washington, U.S., August 1, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo

The CBO “score” arrived as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was steering the measure, which includes $550 billion in new spending and $450 billion in previously approved spending, toward passage. It was not immediately clear whether the CBO’s analysis of the bill would prompt any Republicans who have been supportive of the measure to abandon it.

The sweeping package here of funding for roads, bridges and broadband internet is one of Democratic President Joe Biden’s top legislative priorities.

CNN reported that Republican Senator John Cornyn said the CBO’s findings were a “real problem,” requiring “credible payfors,” or ways to finance the costs of the bill.

But he added that he still thinks there would be enough support to pass it. Cornyn, a senior member, did not vote to advance the bill in initial procedural votes.

Senator Thom Tillis, one of the Republicans who voted to advance it late last month, said he did not think the CBO findings would diminish his support for the legislation.

He added that the agency did not take into account some provisions of the bill that would lessen its impact on deficits.

Other Republican senators, including Mitt Romney and Kevin Cramer, also continued to defend the bill.

The CBO’s analysis said the bill will increase Washington’s revenues by $50 billion over the decade and increase discretionary spending by $415 billion.

It did not include $57 billion in added revenues that senators estimated Washington would collect over the long term from the economic growth benefits of the infrastructure projects.

It also did not count $53 billion in unused federal supplemental unemployment funds to be returned from states.

The bill’s top two negotiators, Republican Senator Rob Portman and Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema, said in a joint statement that CBO was “limited in what it can include in its formal score” of the bill. They added that new spending in the measure is “offset” through the combination of new revenues and savings, only some of which was taken into account by CBO.

In procedural votes in late July the bill garnered more than enough votes to indicate it could pass the Senate on a bipartisan basis, with more than a dozen Republicans joining the Senate’s 50 Democrats and independents.

The Senate is trying to wrap up work ahead of a scheduled five-week summer recess.

Portman said a Saturday conclusion seemed possible.

Senator Dick Durbin, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, told reporters: “The general notion is the sooner the better so we can get to the budget resolution and we don’t have agreement yet.”

If and when the $1 trillion bill passes, the Democratic-controlled Senate will then turn its attention to ramming through a $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” budget framework that Republicans oppose, using a special procedure temporarily scrapping the 60-vote threshold for bills to advance.

It would finance more home healthcare and child care, along with climate change and immigration initiatives – projects that Biden wants to pay for in part with tax increases on the wealthy.

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