Reconciliation Requires Tradeoffs, Not Gimmicks

For Immediate Release

Policymakers are reportedly seeking to shrink the “Build Back Better” reconciliation plan from a proposed $3.5 trillion to between $1.5 trillion and $2.3 trillion. To reduce the size of the package, negotiators are discussing reducing the number of initiatives in the package, reducing the size or cost of proposed initiatives, and/or resorting to timing gimmicks such as premature expirations to hide the true cost of their package.

The following is a statement from Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:

To budget is to choose. It’s time for our legislators to decide what to keep, what to shrink, what to better target, and what to set aside – all within the framework of what they are willing to fully pay for.

Arbitrary delays and sunsets reduce the cost of these programs on paper only. We’ve seen this game before; when they expire, there will be immense pressure to reauthorize them and extreme reluctance to pay for them. The result will either be massive new borrowing or the threat of ending them altogether. The uncertainty this causes is highly disruptive to the very people the programs are supposed to be helping.

Democrats rightly criticized the use of arbitrary expirations in the 2017 tax cutsSo did we. It was terrible policymaking then, just as it would be now. 

While policymakers should not play games, they should target resources to their best use. Some policies – such as SALT cap repeal for the rich – don’t belong at all. Other policies can be better designed to deliver similar benefits at a lower cost or better targeted and means tested so resources go where they are most needed. We've put forward a number of options and suggestions to accomplish this.


For more information, please contact Kim McIntyre, Director of Media Relations, at