By Robert Romano
The Senate on Aug. 8 voted 68 to 29 to invoke cloture on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending bill — a vote that required 60 votes to move forward. 18 Senate Republicans voted to go along with it, which will now proceed to final passage.
The bill breaks down with $110 billion of direct spending, $415 billion of discretionary and increase Department of Transportation contract authority by $196 billion to $789 billion through 2031 (the remaining $593 billion of contract authority was already in place in the baseline by Congress), according to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate.
Offsetting the new spending is $206 billion of revenue changes and spending reallocations according to a Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget analysis of the Congressional Budget Office estimate: $43 billion from unspent Covid monies, $51 billion from delaying the Medicare Part D rebate rule, $10 billion by selling spectrum, $28 billion from cryptocurrency reporting, $21 billion by extending fees to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and other Government Sponsored Enterprises, $14 billion from reinstating Superfund fees, $21 billion from extending a mandatory sequester, $6 billion from custom user fees, $6 billion from selling oil from the strategic petroleum reserve, $3 billion reduced spending on discarded medications and $3 billion by applying pension “smoothing”.
The legislation includes intrusive measures such as a study on the feasibility of implementing a mechanism to tax electric vehicles via onboard diagnostics, GPS and other tracking of their mileage, in Section 13002, titled “National motor vehicle per-mile user fee pilot.”
Overall, that will add $256 billion of new borrowing, adding to the national debt, according to CBO. That’s not cheap.
After CBO released its score showing the bill was not in fact paid for, Mollie Timmons, a spokesperson for Sen. Portman, stated, “It includes responsible pay-fors that generate new revenue and savings, some of which won’t be fully reflected in the final score because of limitations on the way CBO scores legislation.”
But that doesn’t include the $196 billion contract authority. According to Roll Call’s Jessica Wehrman, Joseph Morton, and Peter Cohn, “Although the ‘contract authority’ granted by the bill is a form of mandatory spending, budget scorekeepers can’t actually estimate their deficit impact until the annual appropriations bills set a ceiling on how much of that money can be spent during that fiscal year.”
But Committee for Responsible Federal Budget straightens that out, writing in its analysis, “On net, the legislation would cost over $340 billion based on its direct effects.”
That’s not paid for, despite what was promised by Senators headed into this mess.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) had previously declared, “This is a bill which is paid for.”
“This is paid for. Our infrastructure bill is all paid for,” Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) claimed on Aug. 1.
Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) had promised, “It’s paid for… We do it without raising taxes.”
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) said the bill “ensure[s] that we were paying for this package, and doing so in a way that was responsible and that was defensible.”
Tell it the voters. Since Jan. 2020, the national debt has skyrocketed by $5.25 trillion to $28.4 trillion with all of the emergency Covid spending, with much of it financed by the Federal Reserve’s printing press. This will only add to it.
Making matters worse, the bill will pave the way for the next big spending boondoggle, the $3.5 trillion that House and Senate Democrats plan to pass on a 50-vote threshold in the Senate on budget reconciliation. That is to say, they won’t need any Republican votes.
And by allowing upwards of $256 billion, or $340 billion, if the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget’s analysis is accurate (it usually is), that means Senate Republicans in favor of it have made it that much easier for Democrats to pass their $3.5 trillion spending plan, by reducing the amount of deficit-spending they need to offset.
As Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) warned on CNBC on Aug. 5, “My view, and I think the view of a majority of Republicans, is that this is effectively a gateway drug that is facilitating the $3.5 trillion bill.”
Meaning, the American people, one way or another, will be paying for the infrastructure bill — and everything that comes after it — for years to come.
Updated to include Aug. 8 roll call vote.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.