Enacted in 2001 and 2003, the Bush tax cuts are projected to cost about $2.1 trillion in lost revenue in the 10 years since they were first passed, according to Citizens for Tax Justice, a liberal-leaning research group in Washington, D.C. About $979 billion of that would have come from the richest five percent of taxpayers.
By comparison, the health care plan advocated by House Democrats is projected to cost about $1 trillion through its first decade (2010-2019), according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.
The Bush tax cuts tally does not include the additional interest payments on the national debt made necessary by the deficit-financed cuts, the report noted. That figure bumps up the total cost of the tax cuts to about $2.48 trillion.
"Many of the lawmakers who argue that the health care reform legislation is 'too costly' are the same lawmakers who supported the Bush tax cuts," the report notes. "Their own voting record demonstrates that health care reform is not a matter of costs, but a matter of priorities."
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah has criticized the plan's projected costs, as has Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
"Throughout this debate, the administration's central argument has been that America needs health care reform for the sake of the economy," McConnell said in June. "Yet according to independent estimates, every health care proposal Democrats on Capitol Hill have offered would only hurt the economy."
Hatch said something similar last month.
"Unfortunately, the path we are taking in Washington right now is to simply spend another trillion dollars of taxpayer money to further expand the role of the federal government," he said.
Both voted for the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003.
The conservative Heritage Foundation argues the Bush tax cuts spurred positive economic activity. But as a January report in The Washington Post notes, "President Bush has presided over the weakest eight-year span for the U.S. economy in decades, according to an analysis of key data, and economists across the ideological spectrum increasingly view his two terms as a time of little progress on the nation's thorniest fiscal challenges."