WASHINGTON (AP) — Like Hercules and his 12 labors, Democrats’ $1.85 trillion package of social and climate initiatives seems afflicted by a maddening parade of hurdles. The Congressional Budget Office could be a problem, but it is likely that they will overcome.

The office, created in 1974 as Congress’ nonpartisan fiscal scorekeeper, is working on a 10-year cost estimate of the bill and its component spending and tax proposals. Politically, it is important to determine how close the bill comes to being paid for by savings such as President. Joe BidenTop Democrats say it is.

Here’s a guide to understanding the numbers blizzard that CBO is about to unleash:

MODERATES – A BIG DEAL

House Speaker has been elected after months of bargaining between Democrats. Nancy PelosiBoth Chuck Schumer (Senate Majority Leader) and the problem persists. Facing unbroken Republican opposition, Democrats can lose no votes in the Senate and just three in the HouseTo pass their massive bill.

This gives Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and his moderate House colleagues significant leverage. Among other things, the centrists want the measure’s savings — chiefly tax increases on wealthy people, big corporations and companies doing business abroad — to fully pay for its family services, health care and environment programs.

D-W.Va.’s Chairman Joe Manchin will be present at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee meeting to discuss nominations at Dirksen Building.
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The House was prevented from voting last week by five moderates. They demanded to first see CBO’s official estimate of the bill, mainly to see if the agency thinks it would worsen already huge federal deficits. Many centrists hail from areas where Democrats are accused of causing budget deficits. This is easy fodder to attack the GOP.

In a compromise with progressives, the centrists said they’d vote for the bill if CBO figures are “consistent” with preliminary White House estimates asserting that the measure paid for itself. They promised to try resolving “discrepancies” if CBO’s numbers were worse.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) hopes to push the bill through her chamber next Wednesday. It is likely that the Senate will amend the bill, and it’s work may take longer.

WILL CBO’S NUMBERS HELP DEMOCRATS?

Maybe, eventually.

Budget office released estimates for pieces of legislation that totals 2,100 pages. It has promised overall figures “as soon as practicable, but the exact timing is uncertain.”

This means that a final score may not be available next week.

If that’s the case, would House moderates accept partial CBO numbers or cost estimates from another source? Biden and Pelosi, give you new assurances. Forbidding you from changing the bill or putting it on hold?

That’s unclear. Concerns about worsening inflation may only intensify moderates’ qualms.

In a reassuring report for Democrats, Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation, which works with CBO and produces nonpartisan estimates about tax legislation, said last week the measure would raise $1.5 trillion in new revenue over the next decade. That alone would cover most of the legislation’s cost.

Yet there’s another complication.

NUMBERS FOR DUELING

Unlike the White House’s early estimate, CBO’s score may show the bill isn’t fully paid for. It follows stricter rules for making calculations than the White House, which — no matter which party holds the presidency — almost always produces rosier numbers than CBO.

According to the White House, for example, increasing IRS tax enforcement, which is mainly targeted at the highest income earners by $80billion over 10 year, could raise $480 billion.

Under guidelines CBO follows, it’s not expected to credit the bill with any savings from tougher tax audits. The budget office estimated that the IRS would receive $80 billion more revenue than it received in September.

But, REMEMBER: THIS IS CONGRESS

Even if CBO’s numbers aren’t great, there’s reason to believe the bill would survive. If lawmakers reach a political agreement to do something, it is rare for bad budget numbers to upend that decision.

Democrats know that sinking legislation carrying Biden’s top domestic priorities would threaten disaster in next year’s congressional elections. Congress’s political and fiscal dexterity is well-known at crucial moments such as these.

Though CBO’s numbers determine a bill’s official price tag, Democrats could simply talk instead about better figures from the White House or elsewhere to paint a brighter fiscal picture. That’s what Republicans did in 2017 when they claimed their huge tax cut would pay for itself, even though CBO projected it would worsen deficits by well over $1 trillion.

If the bill’s savings fall short but Democrats find the political payoff for passage irresistibly strong, they might decide to swallow some red ink and insist the bill would bolster the economy. CBO the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill,Biden will sign the bill Monday. It will raise deficits by $256 billion in 10 years, however, almost all Democrats as well as some Republicans supported it.

If needed, Democrats could tweak some of the measure’s tax provisions to raise more revenue. Moderates could try forcing progressives to accept additional spending reductions in a bill that’s already been squeezed down from an earlier $3.5 trillion price tag. That would encounter stiff resistance from progressives who say they’ve compromised enough.

GIMMICKS ARE ALSO AVAILABLE

There are many provisions in the bill that keep its cost down.

Many of its priorities don’t start immediately or are temporary, even though Democrats hope they’ll eventually be made permanent. Because the cost of legislation can be measured over a period of 10 years, it makes these programs appear more affordable.

For just one year, children receive more generous tax credits and low-income workers get extended them. The subsidy for private insurance coverage would cover four years while the free pre-school or bolstered care benefits will last six years. In 2023 would be the start of new Medicare hearing benefits, and paid family leave will follow in 2024.

The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which advocates fiscal discipline, has estimated that the measure’s overall price tag could exceed $4 trillion if its temporary programs were made permanent.

Source: HuffPost.com.

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