WASHINGTON – The Democrats pushed aside months of divisions and brought their massive social and environmental bill through a sharply divided house on Friday as President Joe Biden and his party moved closer to capitalizing on their control of the government by using its resources on their top national priorities.
The House of Representatives approved the bill by a party-party vote of 220-213 and sent the measure to a Senate, in which the demands of the moderate Senate Joe Manchin, DW.Va. This will spark new disputes between party centrists and progressives that will likely take weeks to resolve.
Even so, the passage of the house marked a turning point for a measure that was remarkable for the breadth and depth of the changes it would make in federal policy. A draft law summarizes far-reaching changes in the areas of taxes, health care, energy, climate change, family services, education and housing. That shows the Democrats’ desire to achieve their goals while controlling the White House and Congress, a dominance that could end after next year’s midterm elections.
Biden hailed the vote as “another big step forward” for the country.
“Most importantly, it puts us on the path to rebuilding our economy better than before by restoring America’s backbone: the working people and the middle class,” he said in a statement.
Democrats gathered outside the chamber, many arm in arm, when the last roll call was over. “Build Back Better,” chanted many, using Biden’s name for the measure. Their cheers grew louder as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ended the vote.
The Republicans had little to celebrate, but they did show some vigor. “Good luck in the Senate,” scoffed Florida MP Kat Cammack.
The House vote also gave Biden a temporary taste of victory, and likely relief, during what may be the rockiest time of his presidency. It was beaten by falling support in polls, reflecting voter concerns about inflation, deadlocked supply chains and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which worries Democrats that their legislative efforts are not getting through to voters.
“If you’re a parent, senior, child, worker, or American, this bill is for you,” Pelosi said, underscoring the Democrats’ efforts to impress the public.
Maine Rep. Jared Golden was the only Democrat who voted no.
Biden signed a $ 1 trillion package of highway and other infrastructure projects this week, another priority that has overcome months of internal democratic struggles. The President has spent the past few days promoting this measure across the country.
Final approval of the larger bill, expected Thursday, was delayed when minority leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Delivered an eight and a half hour broadside criticizing Biden, the Democrats and the bill, the longest speech ever ever in the house. When he finished speaking at dawn, the house paused for a moment before resuming its work. Dozens of members nominated colleagues to cast their votes.
McCarthy stood up, occasionally referring to a folder on his desk, sometimes screaming and croaking hoarsely. Democrats booed and groaned sporadically as McCarthy stared back, underscoring the partisan hostility still censored this week by Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., Over threatening tweets against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y. was reinforced.
McCarthy, who hopes to be a speaker if Republicans take the House in next year’s election, mentioned issues the country faced under Biden, including inflation, China’s rise and large numbers of immigrants crossing the southwest border . “Yes, I want to go back,” he said, mockingly referring to the name “Build Back Better” Biden uses for legislation.
The house rules do not limit the speaking time of party leaders. In 2018, Pelosi, the minority leader at the time, held the floor for a little over eight hours demanding action on immigration. Until McCarthy’s speech, hers was the longest in the House that had ever existed.
The vote on Friday came after the bipartisan Congressional budget bureau estimated the package would worsen the federal deficit by $ 160 billion over the next decade. The agency also recalculated the 10-year price of the measure at $ 1.68 trillion, though that number wasn’t directly comparable to the $ 1.85 trillion the Democrats used.
Initiatives in the 2,100-page bill include strengthening childcare, creating a free preschool, reducing the cost of prescription drugs for seniors, and stepping up efforts to slow climate change. It also includes tax breaks to promote clean energy development, increased childcare support, and extended tax breaks for millions of families with children, low-income earners and those who purchase private health insurance.
Most of this would be paid for through tax hikes for the rich, large corporations and corporations doing business overseas.
The move would allocate $ 109 billion to create free preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. There are large sums of money for home nursing for the elderly, new Medicare coverage for hearing, and a new requirement for four weeks of paid family vacation. However, the family vacation program was supposed to be overturned in the Senate, where it was rejected by Manchin.
There’s also a language that allows the government to issue work permits to millions of immigrants to temporarily stay in the U.S. and save $ 297 billion by letting the government cut prescription drug costs. The fate of these two provisions is uncertain in the Senate, where the chamber’s bipartisan MP is enforcing rules that restrict what is allowed in budget laws.
In a big, but expected, difference from the White House, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the additional $ 80 billion to increase tax enforcement would allow the IRS to generate $ 207 billion in new revenue over the next decade . That meant net savings of $ 127 billion, well below the White House’s more optimistic estimate of $ 400 billion.
CBO officially estimated that overall legislation would increase the federal deficit by $ 367 billion over the next decade. The agency’s guidelines require that the IRS savings be ignored when measuring the deficit impact of a bill, but it acknowledged that the IRS savings would reduce budget deficits by less than $ 160 billion.
Biden and other Democratic leaders said the move would pay off, mainly through tax hikes for wealthy, large corporations and companies doing business overseas.
Both parties are worried about deficits. Republicans passed tax cuts in 2017 that made red ink $ 1.9 trillion worse, while Democrats passed a COVID-19 relief bill at the same price that year.
Republicans said the latest legislation would harm the economy, give tax breaks to some wealthy taxpayers, and make the government bigger and more intrusive. Frequent GOP attacks have been a provision that increases the limit on state and local taxes that people can deduct from federal taxes, which disproportionately helps top earners from high-tax coastal states.
Moderate Democrats were reassured by the CBO’s numbers.
Florida Democratic MP Stephanie Murphy, a leading centrist, backed the move, saying the latest figures show the legislation is “financially disciplined”.
Vice President Kamala Harris’ vote puts Democrats in control of the 50-50 Senate. This leaves the Democrats with no votes, which gives Manchin enormous influence in the upcoming negotiations. The revised invoice had to be sent back to the house before going to Biden’s desk.
The bipartisan private Federal Responsible Budget Committee, which preaches fiscal restraints, estimated the total cost of the bill would be nearly $ 5 trillion if the Democrats hadn’t made some of their programs temporary. These include child tax credits, which the Democrats only extended for a year, which makes their prices appear lower, even though the party wants these programs to last.
AP Congress Correspondent Lisa Mascaro and reporter Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.
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