By ALAN FRAM
WASHINGTON (AP) – Democrats dismissed months-long divisions and pushed their sweeping social and environmental bill through a heavily divided House on Friday, as President Joe Biden and his party moved closer to capitalization of their control of the government by channeling its resources towards their main national priorities.
The House approved the legislation in a vote close to party line 220-213, sending the measure to a Senate where moderate Senator Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia’s demands for cost cuts, and the strict rules of that chamber seem certain to force significant changes. This will lead to new disputes between the centrists and progressives in the party which will likely take weeks to resolve.
Even so, the passage through the House marked a turning point for a measure remarkable for the breadth and depth of the changes it would bring to federal policies. Far-reaching changes in taxation, health care, energy, climate change, family services, education and housing are all rolled into one bill. It shows the Democrats’ desire to achieve their goals while controlling the White House and Congress – a domination that may well end after next year’s midterm elections.
The House vote also gave Biden a momentary taste of victory, and possibly relief, during perhaps the most difficult time of his presidency. He was beaten by the drop in the number of approvals in the polls, reflecting voters’ concerns over inflation, blocked supply chains and the lingering coronavirus pandemic, leaving Democrats worried their legislative efforts will fail. to voters.
âIf you are a parent, a senior, a child, a worker, if you are an American, this bill is for you,â said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Highlighting the efforts Democrats to impress the public.
Biden this week signed a $ 1 trillion package of highway and other infrastructure projects, another priority that overcame months of internal Democratic struggle. The president has spent the last few days promoting this measure across the country.
Final approval of the bigger bill, which was expected Thursday, was delayed when Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Gave an eight-and-a-half-hour speech criticizing Biden, the Democrats and the Bill. law, the longest speech ever in the House. . When he finished his remarks around dawn, the House suspended briefly before resuming its proceedings, with dozens of members nominating colleagues to vote.
Standing and occasionally referring to a filing cabinet on his desk, McCarthy would scream and moan at times in a hoarse voice. Democrats booed and whimpered sporadically as McCarthy glared back at them, underscoring the partisan hostility that was only heightened by this week’s censorship against Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, for threatening tweets targeting the representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York.
McCarthy, who hopes to become a speaker if Republicans capture the chamber in next year’s election, spoke about the problems the country has faced under Biden, including inflation, the rise of China and a large number immigrants crossing the southwest border. âYeah, I want to go back,â he said, mocking the name âBuild Back Betterâ that Biden uses for legislation.
The rules of the House do not limit the speaking time of party leaders. In 2018, then-minority leader Pelosi stood up for just over eight hours to demand action on immigration. Until McCarthy’s speech, his was the longest in House history.
Friday’s vote came after the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the program would worsen federal deficits by $ 160 billion over the next decade. The agency also recalculated the price of the 10-year measure to $ 1.68 trillion, although that figure is not directly comparable to the $ 1.85 trillion figure used by Democrats.
Initiatives in the 2,100-page bill include stepping up support for childcare, creating a free preschool, reducing the costs of prescription drugs for the elderly, and scaling up efforts to slow climate change. Also included are tax credits to boost the development of clean energy, increased support for childcare and extended tax breaks for millions of families with children, working poor and people who buy insurance. private illness.
Most of it would be paid for by tax increases on the rich, big corporations, and companies doing business abroad.
The measure would provide $ 109 billion to create a free preschool for 3 and 4 year olds. There are significant sums for home health care for the elderly, new Medicare coverage for hearing, and a new requirement for four weeks of paid family leave. The family leave program, however, was to be abolished in the Senate, where it encountered opposition from Manchin.
There is also language for the government to issue work permits to millions of immigrants that would allow them to stay in the United States temporarily, 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 non-partisan parliamentarian of the chamber applies rules that limit the provisions allowed in finance bills.
In a major but expected difference with the White House, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill added $ 80 billion to increase IRS tax enforcement would allow it to collect $ 207 billion in new revenue over the course of of the next decade. That meant net savings of $ 127 billion, well below the White House’s more optimistic estimate of $ 400 billion.
In a pointing oddity, the CBO officially estimated that comprehensive legislation would push up federal deficits by $ 367 billion over the next decade. The agency’s guidelines require her to ignore IRS savings when measuring a bill’s impact on the deficit, but she acknowledged that by including IRS savings, the measure would worsen budget deficits by $ 160 billion less.
Biden and other Democratic leaders said the measure would pay off, in large part thanks to tax increases on the wealthy, big corporations and companies doing business overseas.
Both sides are selectively worried about deficits. Republicans passed tax cuts in 2017 that worsened red ink by $ 1.9 trillion, while Democrats enacted a COVID-19 relief bill this year with the same price tag.
Republicans have said the latest legislation will hurt the economy, give tax breaks to some wealthy taxpayers and make the government bigger and more intrusive. The GOP’s frequent attacks were a provision raising the limit on state and local taxes that people can deduct from federal taxes, which disproportionately helps high earners in high-tax coastal states.
After months of talks, Democrats were eager to start selling the package at home. Lawmakers said they were planning 1,000 events across the country by the end of the year to showcase the benefits of the measure to voters.
Faced with uniform Republican opposition, Democrats could not lose more than three votes to win in the House, but moderates seemed reassured by the CBO numbers.
Florida Democratic Representative Stephanie Murphy, a prominent centrist, said she would support the measure after the latest figures showed the legislation “is fiscally disciplined” and “has a lot of positives.”
Vice President Kamala Harris’ decisive vote gives Democrats 50-50 control of the Senate. This leaves the Democrats with no votes, which gives Manchin enormous weight in the upcoming negotiations. The amended bill is expected to come back to the House before going to Biden’s office.
The non-partisan Private Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which advocates budget restraint, estimated that the overall cost of the bill would be close to $ 5,000 billion if Democrats had not made some of its programs temporary. For example, tax credits for children and working poor are only extended for one year, making their prices appear lower, even though the party wants these programs to be permanent.