Congress is out this week for the Veterans Day holiday, which means a week of posturing and trying to poison the well for next week’s push on President Joe Biden’s family and climate change Build Back Better plan. It’s all about trying to wedge the conservative Democrats even further away from the majority of their colleagues. And in one case, it’s a Democrat doing it.
The Congressional Budget Office advised lawmakers Tuesday that it likely would not be able to provide a full score of the BBB bill by next week, when Speaker Pelosi has said the House will vote. The conservative hold-outs in the caucus had reached an agreement with progressives that if they helped pass the hard infrastructure bill last Friday (which they did), then the conservatives would vote for BBB provided they receive certain “fiscal information” from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Exactly what that information could consist of was not specified, but as of Wednesday, they are apparently not insisting that it be a full score and that they expect “there will likely be enough information available to alleviate“ their concerns.
A couple of Republicans, however, are trying to shoehorn themselves into the situation and make the CBO produce a score that doesn’t actually reflect the legislation. Republican Missouri Rep. Jason Smith (who calls himself a “leader” on his Twitter bio, even if he’s just another Republican no one has heard of) and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have released a letter they sent to the CBO telling them to “produce a score that reflects the full price tag of @POTUS’s agenda.” By that, they mean scoring the key temporary components designed to help working families, as if all of them were going to be permanent. The bill as it stands is paid for, something the Joint Committee on Taxation has already confirmed.
The two Republicans are also demanding that the CBO provide this bogus score “no later than one day after transmittal of the CBO cost estimate for this legislation or 48 hours before the U.S. House of Representatives considers the FY 2022 reconciliation measure, whichever comes first.” That does two things—bogs down the CBO with extraneous work so that it could take them longer to come up with the score for the actual legislation, and thus potentially delay the vote, and come up with a much more expensive score they could point to, scream “but the deficit!” and make the conservative Democrats scared of having Republicans call them “tax-and-spend” Democrats in the next election. As if Republicans weren’t definitely going to do that anyway, no matter how they vote on this bill.
Progressive Democrats are giving their colleagues the benefit of the doubt, at least publicly, expecting that they will continue to act in good faith.
A Democrat definitely not acting in good faith, however, is Sen. Joe Manchin. Surprise, surprise. He’s been yammering on about the inflationary effects of the potential bill, not because he understands the economics in effect, but because it sounds like a thing smart people would say. He was back at it Wednesday.
That received a quick response in the form of subtweets from both President Biden and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
They’ve got the backing of Moody’s Analytics on that one. The BBB would “strengthen long-term economic growth, the benefits of which would mostly accrue to lower- and middle-income Americans,” Moody’s analysts say. And answering one of Manchin’s regular excuses for not wanting to do it: “Concerns that the plan will ignite undesirably high inflation and an overheating economy are overdone.”
“The reconciliation package … meaningfully lifts economic growth and jobs and lowers unemployment,” the analysts conclude. “The economy performs best in the final scenario, in which both the bipartisan infrastructure deal and the reconciliation package become law.”