Chris Wallace Confronts Cedric Richmond Over Saying Reconciliation Bill Would Cost $0

White House Senior Adviser Cedric Richmond said on Fox News Sunday that the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill would cost "zero" dollars, a statement promptly challenged by host Chris Wallace.

"Mr. Richmond, I've got to...stop you there," said Wallace. "It doesn't cost zero. Whether it's $3.5 trillion or $2 trillion...it costs that amount of money. Now, you can pay for it either by borrowing it or you can pay for it by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy, but it doesn't cost zero."

Richmond replied, "At the end of the day, it will cost zero because we're going to pay for it. Now, if you go back and look at the Trump tax cuts, which weren't paid for, they cost billions and billions. But we're going to pay for everything we spend here."

Richmond also appeared on NBC News' Meet The Press Sunday, where he said that the bill is not about the number placed on its price tag, but rather is more focused on programs "that meet the needs of American people."

"Our job is to bring people together, shape this in terms of the needs that we're going to meet, and then we'll see what a price tag is. We'll see where we end up. We'll see how long the programs will be in existence until they have to be renewed," he said. "That's how we're gonna approach it, this is not about a number because, at the end of the day, the number is zero."

The $3.5 trillion reconciliation package includes budgets set to improve education, health, and address climate change, among other plans.

Richmond said that President Joe Biden's administration is paying for everything in this legislation, and noted that Americans would want to see wealthy people and big corporations "finally pay their fair share"

"We're gonna pay for everything we do. So it's not arbitrary numbers," he said of the Build Back Better package.

 Richmond Defends Saying Reconciliation Bill costs 'zero'
Cedric Richmond on Sunday echoed what President Biden said before about the reconciliation package, that it costs "zero" dollars and that everything is paid for in the legislation. Above, Richmond looks on as Biden meets with advisors, union and business leaders about infrastructure at the White House on July 22, 2021. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Richmond echoed Speaker Nancy Pelosi's statement on Wednesday, when she told reporters, "It's not about a dollar amount. The dollar amount, as the president said, is zero. This bill will be paid for."

Other Democrats also defended the bill this weekend, including Representative Ritchie Torres of New York, who argued that the price tag "is a modest investment" considering the size of the American economy.

"There's misconception...The Build Back Better Act, the original draft, it is not $3.5 trillion over the course of a year," he said during a Saturday appearance on MSNBC's Yasmin Vossoughian Reports. "It's over the course of 10 years. So, it's $350 billion. Which, for a $20 trillion economy like ours, is a modest investment. So, I think it's shortsighted to focus on the price tag."

He also said that some programs included in the bill might be revised in terms of budget, adding, "We are certainly going to have to lower the price tag from $3.5 trillion based on the concerns."

Nancy Pelosi on $3.5 Trillion bill:

"The dollar amount, as the president said, is zero." pic.twitter.com/VQBbxV9pkt

— The First (@TheFirstonTV) September 29, 2021

Torres acknowledged that progressives have to consider the concerns of Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema in regards to the totality of the bill. But, he added that both senators have to give feedback and need to be clear about their positions because without that "then we are in no position to negotiate with them."

Earlier in September, Richmond said that the Biden administration will continue to push for the spending package despite those opposing the bill.

He reiterated his statement on Sunday as he confirmed that the administration will continue working on the reconciliation bill and the bipartisan infrastructure bill at the same time. "With the debt ceiling, we're going to keep our head down," he added.

Manchin and Sinema are the only two Democrats opposing the bill, with Manchin refusing to support the $3.5 trillion price tag of the Build Back Better package.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in early September, Manchin wrote: "Instead of rushing to spend trillions on new government programs and additional stimulus funding, Congress should hit a strategic pause on the budget-reconciliation legislation."

Responding to Manchin's stance, Richmond said last month that the West Virginia senator is a "valued member" but the administration will still push for its agenda.

"And part of this is just the sausage-making process at the end," Richmond said on ABC News' This Week. "It just happens. And this is happening in public view. But it's not abnormal for this to happen in the legislative process. And we're still full steam ahead on trying to get our legislation passed."