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Budget

Lindsey Graham

Congressional Republicans are warning that President Joe Biden's $1.75 trillion Build Back Better plan could cost a lot more — if it contained a lot of provisions that it does not contain.

Rather than explain their opposition to what's in the popular climate and caregiving infrastructure package, they are instead attacking a nonexistent proposal to spend trillions of dollars more.

On Friday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation released an estimate of what it called "a modified version of H.R. 5376, the Build Back Better Act, that would make various policies permanent rather than temporary

."The budget office took provisions of the actual bill, such as the child tax credit and Medicaid expansion, and assessed how much more it would cost if each were to be extended for all time. Doing so would make the ten-year $1.75 trillion plan into a $4.9 trillion bill and would require additional revenue or deficit spending, the budget office found.

GOP lawmakers seized on the CBO's theoretical projections to falsely assert that the numbers reflected the real price of the Build Back Better spending package.

"The true cost of the bill has more than doubled and the effect on the deficit is eightfold," argued Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who sits on the Senate Budget Committee.

"Today’s CBO score exposes the budget gimmicks Democrats have been using to hide the true cost of their tax & spending plan," wrote Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), the top Republican on the House Budget Committee. "CBO has confirmed their bill spends $4.9 trillion and adds $3 trillion to the debt – trillions more than Democrats claimed."

"The Congressional Budget Office found that the actual cost of Biden's spending bill is $3 TRILLION in new deficit spending," claimed Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR).

"On the same day news broke that inflation has hit a nearly 40-year high, the CBO announces the true cost of the #BuildBackBroke agenda," said Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL). "$3 TRILLION. Americans can't afford Washington's spending problems."

In a press release, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) mocked Graham and his GOP colleagues for hyping the "CBO score of an imaginary bill."

"Congress and President Biden have made clear: any future extensions of the life-changing provisions of Build Back Better will be fully paid for, as they are today," Pelosi said in a statement.

Graham and Smith requested the analysis last month, demanding that it be completed before the House voted on the package, but Democrats passed the package nonetheless. The resolution now waits for a vote in the Senate.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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By Richard Cowan and David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Congress' months-long drive to raise the federal government's $28.9 trillion debt limit, and avert an unprecedented default, took a step forward on Thursday as the Senate advanced the first of two bills needed for the hike.

Fourteen Republicans joined the chamber's 48 Democrats and the two independents who caucus with them in voting to end debate on the first bill, spurning right-wing demands that they boycott any measure leading to an increase in the Treasury Department's borrowing authority.

"I'm optimistic that after today's vote we will be on a glide path to avoid a catastrophic default," the chamber's top Democrat, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, said in a speech before the 64-36 vote on a measure he negotiated with Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell to speed passage.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has urged Congress to raise the limit before December 15.

Republicans for months have been maneuvering to try to force Democrats to raise the debt limit on their own, seeking to link the move to President Joe Biden's proposed $1.75 trillion "Build Back Better" domestic spending bill.

Democrats note that the legislation is needed to finance substantial debt incurred during Donald Trump's administration, when Republicans willingly jacked up Washington's credit card bill by about $7.85 trillion, partly through sweeping tax cuts and spending to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senate could vote as early as Thursday evening to pass the first of two pieces of legislation needed to raise the borrowing limit to a still-under-negotiation amount intended to cover Washington's expenses through the 2022 midterm elections that will determine control of Congress.

Democrats will need only a simple majority, including Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote, to pass the two pieces of legislation and raise the debt limit.

A final vote, in the House of Representatives, is likely on Tuesday and President Joe Biden is expected to sign both bills into law once they pass.

'Right Thing To Do'

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who is up for re-election next year, told reporters that she voted to advance the first bill because "It was the right thing to do."

She added that at a time when Russia is amassing troops on its border with Ukraine, "we don't need to be sending signals anywhere in the world that we're not going to back the full faith and credit in the United States."

The break in the legislative deadlock came just two months after Congress agreed on a short-term lift to the debt ceiling, to avert an unprecedented default by the federal government on its obligations, which would have dire implications for the world economy.

For years, lawmakers have squirmed over raising the statutory limit on the country's growing debt, fearing voter backlash.

The emergence in 2010 of the conservative, small-government "Tea Party" movement increased the rancor in Congress over such legislation, even as lawmakers voted for tax cuts and spending increases that contribute to the debt.

The Bipartisan Policy Center think thank warned last week that the government could risk default by late this month if Congress does not act.

Democrats noted that they had voted in the past to authorize debt ceiling hikes to cover Republican measures, such as the Trump tax cuts.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan, David Morgan, Susan Cornwell and Moira Warburton; Editing by Scott Malone, Peter Cooney and Andrea Ricci)