Senators eagerly awaited a cost assessment of their sprawling bipartisan infrastructure bill from Congress’s official scorekeeper on Thursday, in hopes of passing the bill this weekend.
An estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is one of the last major obstacles for the legislation, which independent analysts have projected could add hundreds of millions of dollars to the nation’s deficits. Proponents in both parties have contended that the measure, which would devote $550 billion in new funding to roads, bridges and broadband, is fully paid for, but fiscal watchdogs have warned that lawmakers are using budgetary gimmicks to obscure the true cost.
A new analysis released by the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Wharton Budget Model on Thursday estimated that the legislation would authorize $548 billion in new infrastructure investments. Changes to the tax code would finance $132 billion of that, the analysis said, but the remaining $351 billion would be deficit spending. The legislation would have no significant impact on economic growth through 2050, the analysis concluded, contradicting the Republicans and Democrats who wrote it, who estimated that growth would generate $56 billion savings.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has also taken issue with the lawmakers’ accounting. For instance, senators estimated $200 billion in savings from unused funds from earlier pandemic relief packages. But the committee said that those savings had already occurred, so they should not count as an offset for the cost of the infrastructure bill, which it estimates would have a net cost of about $350 billion.
Republicans have been expressing growing concerns about the cost of the Biden administration’s economic agenda, arguing that the flood of new spending would cause inflation and inflict grave economic damage. They have also declared they will not support a move to raise the statutory debt limit, which the Treasury Department says technically expired at the beginning of this month.
The C.B.O. said on Thursday, in a report that was unrelated to the infrastructure legislation, that it projected the federal budget deficit will hit $3 trillion this year and average $1.2 trillion per year through 2031.