"The cost of the Build Back Better Agenda is $0," the White House tweeted Sunday.
"The President's plan won't add to our national deficit and no one making under $400,000 per year will see their taxes go up a single penny," the declaration read. "It's fully paid for by ensuring big corporations and the very wealthy pay their fair share."
President Biden and his administration have repeatedly claimed that Build Back Better, a $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, will cost zero dollars, despite multiple analysts rebutting the claim from both sides of the political aisle. The president based the zero-cost claim on the notion that the package will add nothing to the federal deficit because the cost will be offset by tax increases and other revenue-generating schemes.
Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the reconciliation bill will only raise $2.1 trillion through taxes over the course of 10 years, falling far short of the $3.5 trillion cost. And even the $3.5 trillion figure is being contested as the true cost: The Wall Street Journal editorial board argued it's based on "budget gimmickry including entitlement phaseouts and phase-ins" and that the real cost "will be at least $5 trillion, probably far more."
The Washington Post's fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, similarly deemed the zero-cost claim "misleading" and argued that lawmakers "play all sorts of budget games to achieve that mythical zero within the 10-year budget framework." He said the bill's impact on the deficit could "be as low as zero or as high as $1.75 trillion over 10 years."
The White House tweet Sunday sparked a flurry of replies from skeptics.
However, no one wants to do the legislative triage necessary to slim a $3.5 trillion expansion of the social safety net to $1.5 trillion or $2 trillion. The White House insists that congressional leaders need to start making politically painful choices; lawmakers say Biden has to be more assertive in negotiations.
"It's really important that President Biden use active shuttle diplomacy to get this done, because my view is we've got to have a good framework by the end of this month and then be able to convert that into legislation to get it passed by the mid-November period," Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said in a telephone interview last week.
"That shuttle diplomacy — it could be at the White House, having people in different rooms — whatever it takes, that needs to happen yesterday," he added.