The House is rushing to a vote on H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2021, without waiting for a complete cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The report CBO published last week showed that the bill would increase spending by $2.2 billion over ten years while increasing a mix of fines and tax revenues by $3.2 billion. But that estimate only examined the direct spending and revenue provisions included in the proposal. There is at least $5.4 billion in additional spending just through FY 2026 that would add to the net deficit impact of H.R. 1.
The table below features the authorizations of appropriations included in the bill. Where possible, NTUF included budget outlay figures that are available from previous CBO cost estimates. For example, some of the grant programs included in this bill were included in CBO’s similarly partial score for H.R.1 in 2019.
Spending Programs in H.R. 1 Excluded from CBO’s Score (in millions)
|Bill Section||FY 2021||FY 2022||FY 2023||FY 2024||FY 2025||FY 2026||Notes|
|Sec 1017 Election Assistance Grants||$10||$200||$200||$240||$50||$50||The text authorizes $500 million for FY 2021 and "such sums as may be necessary for each succeeding year." CBO scored this section in its 2019 cost estimate of H.R. 1.|
|Sec 1054 Grants to States for Activities to Encourage Involvement of Minors in Election Activities||$25||To remain available until expended.|
|Sec 1091 Pilot Program for Providing Voter Registration Information to Secondary School Students Prior to Graduation||*||The text authorizes such sums as may be necessary.|
|Sec 1102 Expansion and Reauthorization of Grant Program to Assure Voting Access for Individuals with Disabilities||$50||$25||$25||$25||$25||The text authorizes such sums as may be necessary for each fiscal year. CBO scored this section in its 2019 estimate.|
|Sec 1503 Study and Report on Accessible Paper Ballot Verification Mechanisms||$10||The introduced version authorized $5 million, as amended in the Rules Committee report, $10 million in authorized (to remain available until expended).|
|Sec 1622 Absentee Ballot Tracking Program||$4||$4||$4||$4||$4||CBO scored a related bill in 2009, the Absentee Ballot Track, Receive and Confirm Act. (https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/111th-congress-2009-2010/costestimate/hr25101.pdf)|
|Sec 1801 Grants for Poll Worker Recruitment and Training||*||*||*||*||*||*||This section does not include an authorization of appropriations. It is unclear whether this would be funded under the authorization included in the voting system grants in section 3001 of the bill.|
|Sec 1901 Grants to Institutions Demonstrating Excellence in Student Voter Registration||*||*||*||*||*||The text authorizes such sums as may be necessary for FY 2022 and each succeeding year.|
|Sec 1905 Voter Information Response Systems and Hotline||*||*||*||*||*||*||The text authorizes such sums as may be necessary for FY 2021 and each succeeding year.|
|Sec 1909 Election Day as a Legal Public Holiday||$918||$918||$918||The section was added in the Rules Committee report. The cost per work day of the federal civilian workforce (excluding the Postal Service) is $858 million. In addition, certain federal employees who are still required to work on holidays are eligible for premium pay which in the past has been roughly 7 percent of the base holiday pay.|
|Sec 1921 Reauthorization of Election Assistance Commission||$10||$10||$10||$10||$10||Scored by CBO in the 2019 report.|
|Sec 2431 Payments to States for Carrying Out Redistricting||$64||The text authorizes $150,000 per district, excluding states with only one Representative.|
|Sec 3001 & 3011 Grants for Obtaining Compliant Paper Ballot Voting Systems and Carrying Out Voting System Security Improvements||$345||$603||$199||$89||$106||$78||The text of the bill authorizes $1,020 in FY 2021, and $175 million for each of the subsequent four election years. CBO scored these sections in its 2019 report.|
|Sec 3021 Election Infrastructure Innovation Grant Program||$20||$20||$20||$20||$20||$20||The text authorizes $20 million per year.|
|Sec 3401 Election Security Bug Bounty Program||$11||$11||$11||$11||$11||CBO scored this section in its 2019 report.|
|Sec 4101 DISCLOSE Act||$2||$2||$2||$2||CBO scored a stand-alone version of the DISCLOSE Act in 2010. (https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/111th-congress-2009-2010/costestimate/hr51750.pdf)|
In contrast to the bill’s CBO score, H.R. 1 will not, in fact, reduce deficits. A quirk in the bill’s structure and CBO’s partial analysis yields a misleading estimate. It does report a net decrease in the deficit for the provisions related to the new Freedom from Influence Fund that would begin raising revenues in FY 2022, but would not begin paying for campaign finance initiatives until FY 2027. Because of this timing shift, CBO’s score sees a net deficit reduction of $999 million through FY 2031.
But when the additional spending in the bill through FY 2026 is factored into the equation, H.R. 1 would increase the deficits by $4.4 billion through 2031. And the net impact would be higher if the spending levels through FY 2026 are carried through the rest of the decade.
As noted above, the House considered H.R. 1 in 2019 also with a partial estimate. That year, they only provided an incomplete version of the text to CBO. NTUF endeavored to fill in the missing items from the score.
This year, CBO was not given time to complete a full cost analysis before the House proceeded to debate and vote on the measure. With the record level of deficits and debts, members of Congress should make sure they are fully assessing the budget impact of measures under consideration and corresponding spending reductions should be found to protect taxpayers from additional liabilities.