Wash. Times Falsely Claimed CBO “Estimated That the Full Cost Of” Recovery Bill “Will Reach $3.2 Trillion By 2019”

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)– A February 17 Washington Times editorial falsely claimed that “[t]he nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the full cost of [the economic recovery] bill, including its $348 billion debt service and the out-year financing, will reach $3.2 trillion by 2019.” In fact, more than half of that $3.2 trillion figure comes from the cost of permanently extending more than 20 provisions in the recovery bill, which the bill does not do. CBO did not include those costs in its cost estimate of the bill; rather, in his response to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who requested that CBO estimate the cost of permanently extending those provisions, CBO director Douglas Elmendorf noted: “As specified in H.R. 1 as passed, those provisions would either explicitly expire or would specify appropriations only for a limited number of years (usually 2009 and 2010).”

The CBO has estimated that the recovery bill as passed by Congress will cost $787,242,000. In addition to including approximately $1.7 trillion to permanently extend programs that the recovery bill does not authorize to be extended, the $3.2 trillion figure cited by the Times also includes $745 billion in interest costs, which as Elmendorf noted, are not included in CBO scorekeeping.

From Elmendorf’s letter responding to Ryan:

As you requested, the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation have estimated the impact of permanently extending more than 20 of the provisions contained in H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, as passed by the House of Representatives. As specified in H.R. 1 as passed, those provisions would either explicitly expire or would specify appropriations only for a limited number of years (usually 2009 and 2010).

CBO estimates that H.R. 1, as passed by the House of Representatives, would increase budget deficits by about $820 billion over the 2009-2019 period; we estimate that permanently extending the programs you identified would increase the cumulative deficit over that period by another $1.7 trillion (see attached table).

As you requested, the Congressional Budget Office has also estimated the costs of debt service that would result from enacting the bill with these extensions. Such costs are not included in CBO’s cost estimates for individual pieces of legislation and are not counted for Congressional scorekeeping purposes for such legislation. If the specified provisions of H.R. 1 are continued, under CBO’s current economic assumptions and assuming that none of the direct budgetary effects of the legislation are offset by future legislation, CBO estimates that enacting the bill would increase the government’s interest costs by a total of about $745 billion over the 2009-2019 period.

The Washington Times editorial also repeated the debunked claim that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi included a provision in the economic recovery bill to protect the salt marsh harvest mouse. The Times wrote: “The most insulting piece of it was a modest $30 million House Speaker Nancy Pelosi inserted to protect the salt marsh harvest mouse, a tiny rodent indigenous to the San Francisco coast — an obvious earmark in a bill that Mr. Obama said with a straight face would be ‘earmark free.’ ” As Media Matters has repeatedly noted, even the House Republican leadership aide from whom the claim reportedly originated acknowledged that the bill does not contain any language directing funds to San Francisco wetlands or the salt marsh harvest mouse living in them.

From the February 17 Washington Times editorial:

The $787 billion economic stimulus package that Congress passed Friday, with the support of no House Republicans and only three GOP senators, is a hideous caricature of what its sponsors promised. It was originally advertised by President Barack Obama as something that would create or save 3.5 million jobs and would be timely, targeted, and temporary. The final package clearly flunked the latter two descriptions – it was 1,073 pages of scattergun spending, with much of it extending for a decade – and it offers a “cure” to the jobs hemorrhaging that may be far worse than the disease.

Before Mr. Obama has even submitted his first budget later this month, he and congressional Democrats have increased spending for multiple programs that will be in place for the next 10 years before expiring – a multiyear practice virtually unheard of in American politics that may cost $2 trillion more to fund. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the full cost of this bill, including its $348 billion debt service and the out-year financing, will reach $3.2 trillion by 2019.

[…]

The most insulting piece of it was a modest $30 million House Speaker Nancy Pelosi inserted to protect the salt marsh harvest mouse, a tiny rodent indigenous to the San Francisco coast – an obvious earmark in a bill that Mr. Obama said with a straight face would be “earmark free.”

—T.A.
Media Matters for America