WASHINGTON (Reuters) – United States House Democrats gathered around a landmark $ 1.85 trillion climate and social spending bill on Friday, sending the main strand of the president’s economic agenda Joe Biden in the Senate.
House Democratic leaders announced the vote 220-213 near the party line on the so-called Rebuild Better bill, touting its child care, education, health care, tax and environmental provisions as monumental political advances, though they should be revised or scrapped to gain support from moderate Democrats in the Senate .
The only Democratic obstacle in the House was Maine Representative Jared Golden.
In a statement, Biden touted the bill’s provisions on prescription drugs, universal child care, taxes and climate action.
“Most of all, it puts us on track to rebuild our economy better than before by rebuilding the backbone of America: the working people and the middle class,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Build Back Better would be considered as soon as the parliamentarian completes a review.
“We will act as quickly as possible to get this bill to President Biden’s desk,” the New York Democrat said in a statement.
The Democrats’ triumphant moment on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday was delayed by an all-night obstruction-style speech from Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy, who spoke at 8:38 p.m. Thursday and spoke until 5:10 am McCarthy denounced the cost of legislation, President Joe Biden, inflation and China, and looked at topics such as baby carrots, swimming competitions and the dollar menu at McDonald’s .
As House leader, McCarthy was allowed to speak for as long as he wanted — and its eight hours and 32 minutes break an eight hour record set by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in 2018 in favor of immigration reform.
He told Democrats he had “all night,” to which Democrats replied, “So do we.”
Entering the United States Capitol in early Friday morning, Pelosi said she had “no idea” what McCarthy achieved with his obstruction-style speech, according to reports from the Capitol Hill Pool.
“With the passage of the Build Back Better Act, we, the Democratic Congress, are taking our place in the long and honorable legacy of our democracy with legislation that will be the backbone of America’s health and financial security,” he said. Pelosi said on the House Floor shortly before lawmakers voted. When the final tally was announced, Democrats cheered and cheered.
They gathered around Pelosi, chanting his name and clapping.
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Friday’s victory for House Democrats follows months of intense negotiations with the White House and Senate, infighting between progressive and moderate Democrats and a dramatic cut to an even more social safety net plan Biden’s sprawling earlier this year. But they eventually merged.
“For decades, Congress has based its economic policy on the spillover economy, thereby gutting America’s middle class. But today we reject this approach, ”said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.).
She described the bill as “an investment in American families, not in hedge funds, in a way that will benefit all of us.”
The legislation have been selected two weeks ago, when moderates insisted on seeing detailed and unbiased estimates of the costs of the legislation from the Congressional Budget Office before they could vote for it.
But on Thursday, nearly all of the moderates were lined up, including Reps Stephanie Murphy of Florida, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia.
Golden, however, voted no, opposing a provision that grants tax relief to high earners in high tax states.
The legislation now faces a tough and long road – and some likely changes – to the equally divided Senate, where Democrats will need every vote in their caucus for the measure to reach Biden’s office.
The Senate will use a legislative process known as budget reconciliation, which allows Democrats to bypass the Senate’s normal 60-vote threshold and pass the measure without any Republican support.
Moderate senses Joe Manchin III, (DW.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema, (D-Arizona), are expected to have a disproportionate influence on the remaining provisions in the final bill. Both were heavily involved in months of negotiations that halved the original price of $ 3.5 trillion over 10 years.
If Congressional Democrats can pass the measure through both chambers, it would give them a second major legislative victory after the $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure measure enacted this week.
House Republicans opposing the social spending package decried it as too expensive and harmful to the economy.
“This bill should be called the ‘Bad Bad Bad’ bill,” said Representative Tom Cole, an Oklahoman who is the top GOP lawmaker on the House Rules Committee, in a joke. who played on Bill’s “Build Back Better” nickname.
“It’s a wishlist of sweeping policy arrangements and reckless spending that would lead to massive tax hikes, billions of dollars more in the national debt and more and more government control over our lives,” Cole added.
The Biden administration argued that the bill would pay for itself through tax increases on the rich, big corporations, and companies doing business overseas.
An analysis of the Congressional Budget Office released Thursday night predicted the bill would add $ 367 billion to the decade-long deficit.
The bill would remove the cap on federal deductions taxpayers can take for what they pay in local and state taxes, essentially a tax cut for the wealthy in high-tax states, including New Jersey and Maryland. , opposing Golden.
The CBO’s deficit estimate does not take into account possible revenues from an increased application of the IRS, which CBO analysts projected at $ 207 billion in savings and the Treasury said it could save some. 400 billion dollars.
Childcare, universal pre-kindergarten
Among the bill’s sweeping policy provisions are significant changes in the way parents pay for child care.
It allocates $ 400 billion to pay for universal kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds and would provide grants to limit a family’s share of income spent on child care costs for young children.
It also expands the child tax credit so that parents can get a maximum of $ 3,600 per child under 6, for another year. Under the 2021 tax credit, parents can get up to $ 300 per month per child aged 6 and under and $ 250 per child aged 6 to 17.
For new parents and other caregivers, Build Back Better includes four weeks of paid leave – a reduced provision that is unlikely to survive in the Senate due to Manchin’s objections.
On the health care front, this would for the first time give Medicare the ability to negotiate the price of certain prescription drugs with drug companies, and provide hearing aid coverage for the elderly.
It would also close the insurance coverage gap for people living in states that have refused to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, by providing tax credits for health coverage. without premium on Obamacare health scholarships until 2025.
Fight against climate change
Progressive Democrats and environmental groups see the bill as a much stronger climate measure than the bipartisan $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure law.
Even though the top price of the bill was cut in half, most of the climate spending remained. The White House said the measure includes $ 555 billion in climate spending and tax credits.
The largest category of climate action in the bill is $ 320 billion in new and extended tax credits for clean energy.
The bill provides for a consumer tax credit for electric vehicles. Emissions from transportation account for almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, the largest of any sector.
The bill also provides for the funding of a new climate conservation body program this would create entry-level jobs in conservation and climate resilience work. Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Joe Neguse, both Democrats from Colorado, have championed the climate jobs program.
The bill would also make changes to oil and gas development. It would increase royalty rates and end non-competitive leasing for energy companies operating on federal lands and establish royalties for hard rock mining.
It would also impose a levy on methane emissions, one of the most powerful greenhouse gases. Methane is largely a by-product of oil and gas development, agriculture, and landfills.
The bill is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than a gigatonne, said Robbie Orvis, senior director of energy policy design at nonprofit think tank Energy Innovation, in an interview. last month. The United States must reduce its emissions by 2 gigatonnes to meet its commitment under the Paris Climate Agreement.
The $ 1.85 trillion social package includes $ 100 billion that the Biden administration set aside for immigration policy that help reduce backlogs, expand legal representation and assist with border processing.
Democrats tried to include a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented migrants through the reconciliation package, but were prevented by the parliamentarian from the Senate from including these provisions.
Immigration advocates also spent this week lobbying Congress include basic work permits for essential undocumented workers, as well as protections against evictions.