What do we currently know about the Build Back Better Act?
UPDATED: 11/18/2021 4:05 PM
With news sources reporting that a vote on the Build Back Better (BBB) Act, the Biden administration’s signature piece of legislation, could come as early as today, it appears the next step in the Democrats’ domestic spending program is potentially one step closer to the president’s desk.
However, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not yet completed its estimate of the bill, and a recent note suggested they intend to finish by Friday—potentially after House members vote.
That doesn’t mean we don’t know anything about the bill’s costs. Since September, CBO has released 20 partial scores of the bill’s various provisions and promises to release another five more by the end of the week.
While the administration has repeatedly doubled down on the claim that the legislation will be fully paid for, CBO’s estimates and fact-checks by outside observers have found this unlikely to be the case.
The BBB Act is ultimately expected to clock in somewhere between $2 and $2.5 trillion by the time the full CBO estimate is completed, but a post earlier this week by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget noted that the true cost is likely to be far higher—perhaps as high as $5 trillion—after accounting for deceptive sunset provisions and other misleading pay-fors.
So far, CBO has provided estimates for 12 of the bill’s 13 titles: Title I, Committee on Agriculture; Title II, Committee on Education and Labor; Title III, Committee on Energy and Commerce; Title IV, Committee on Financial Services; Title V, Committee on Homeland Security; Title VI, Committee on the Judiciary; Title VII, Committee on Natural Resources; Title X, Committee on Small Business; Title IX, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology; Title XII, Committee on Veterans Affairs; Title VIII, Committee on Oversight and Reform; and Title XI, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
That leaves just one that remains—Title XIII, Committee on Ways and Means—though portions of this title were estimated in CBO’s 10/18/2021 letter, “Provisions That Affect Health Insurance Coverage of People Under 65.”
The table below summarizes these existing scores from CBO and each title’s respective costs—a total of about $1.7 trillion:
This total is likely, of course, to increase as the remainder of the bill is scored. As we wait, the below chart from Spending Tracker shows the distribution of BBB spending over the next 10 years. Clearly, Build Back Better would significantly impact the federal budget many years into the future:
CBO also has estimated that the bill would reduce revenues by about $2.8 billion, which puts the deficit impact (so far) at about the same as the spending impact: $1.7 trillion. Democrats no doubt have their work cut out for them if they ultimately want the BBB Act to be revenue neutral.
|Committee||Prior Level ($M)||New Level ($M)||% Change|
|Title IV, Financial Services||$311,546||$151,462||-51%|
|Title V, Homeland Security||$848||$1,362||61%|
|Title VI, Judiciary||$142,870||$147,158||3%|
|Title VIII, Oversight and Reform||$14,090||$13,775||-2%|
|Title IX, Science, Space, and Technology||$44,593||$9,337||-79%|
|Title X, Small Business||$21,955||$4,961||-77%|
|Title XII, Veterans Affairs||$17,568||$4,829||-73%|
Democrats already have cut significant spending from earlier drafts of the legislation to align the price tag with the wishes of the Senate’s most prominent swing vote, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.). A quick comparison of the latest CBO scores with the earlier reconciliation recommendations shows where some of those cuts are coming from, with only the Committee on Homeland Security seeing an increase:
We’ll presumably know more later this week, but even with incomplete scores from CBO, Build Back Better is making the recent bipartisan infrastructure package signed on Monday look like pennies in comparison.