WASHINGTON — Democrats brushed aside months-long divisions and pushed their expansive social and environment bill through a sharply divided House on Friday, as President Joe Biden and his party moved closer to capitalizing on their control of government by funneling its resources toward their top domestic priorities.

The House approved the legislation by a near party-line 220-213 vote, sending the measure to a Senate where cost-cutting demands by moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and that chamber’s strict rules seem certain to force significant changes. That will prompt fresh disputes between party centrists and progressives that will likely take weeks to resolve.

Even so, House passage marked a watershed for a measure remarkable for the breadth and depth of the changes it would make in federal policies. Wrapped into one bill are far-reaching changes in taxation, 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 giant step forward" for the country.

“Above all, it puts us on the path to build our economy back better than before by rebuilding the backbone of America: working people and the middle class," he said in a statement.

Democrats gathered in front of the chamber, many arm in arm, as the final roll call ticked down. “Build Back Better," many chanted, using Biden's name for the measure. Their cheering grew louder as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gaveled the vote to a close.

Republicans had little to celebrate, but showed some feistiness. “Good luck in the Senate," taunted Rep. Kat Cammack of Florida.

The House vote also gave Biden a momentary taste of victory, and probably relief, during perhaps the rockiest period of his presidency. He’s been battered by falling approval in polls, reflecting voters’ concerns over inflation, gridlocked supply chains and the persistent coronavirus pandemic, leaving Democrats worried that their legislative efforts are not breaking through to voters.

“If you are a parent, a senior, a child, a worker, if you're an American, this bill's for you,” said Pelosi, underscoring Democrats' efforts to impress the public.

Maine Rep. Jared Golden was the only Democrat to vote no.

Biden this week signed a $1 trillion package of highway and other infrastructure projects, another priority that overcame months of internal Democratic battling. The president has spent recent days promoting that measure around the country.

Final approval of the bigger bill, which had been expected Thursday, was delayed when Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., delivered an eight and one-half hour broadside criticizing Biden, Democrats and the bill, the longest speech ever made in the House. When he finished his remarks near dawn, the House recessed briefly before resuming its work, dozens of members designating colleagues to cast their votes.

Standing and referring occasionally to a binder on his desk, McCarthy shouted and rasped hoarsely at times. Democrats sporadically booed and groaned as McCarthy glared back, underscoring partisan hostility only deepened by this week’s censure of Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., for threatening tweets aimed at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

McCarthy, who hopes to become speaker if Republicans capture the chamber in next year’s elections, recited problems the country has faced under Biden, including inflation, China's rise and large numbers of immigrants crossing the Southwest border. “Yeah, I want to go back,” he said in mocking reference to the “Build Back Better” name Biden uses for the legislation.

House rules do not limit how long party leaders may speak. In 2018, Pelosi, minority leader at the time, held the floor for just over eight hours demanding action on immigration. Until McCarthy's speech, hers was the House's longest ever.

Friday's vote came after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the package would worsen federal deficits by $160 billion over the coming decade. The agency also recalculated the measure’s 10-year price tag at $1.68 trillion, though that figure wasn’t directly comparable to a $1.85 trillion figure Democrats have been using.



The 2,100-page bill’s initiatives include bolstering child care assistance, creating free preschool, curbing seniors’ prescription drug costs and increasing efforts to slow climate change. Also included are tax credits to spur clean energy development, bolstered child care assistance and extended tax breaks for millions of families with children, lower-earning workers and people buying private health insurance.

Most of it would be paid for by tax increases on the wealthy, big corporations and companies doing business abroad.

The measure would provide $109 billion to create free preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. There are large sums for home health care for seniors, new Medicare coverage for hearing and a new requirement for four weeks of paid family leave. The family leave program, however, was expected to be removed in the Senate, where it’s been opposed by Manchin.

There is also language to let the government issue work permits to millions of immigrants that would let them stay in the U.S. temporarily, and to save $297 billion by letting the government curb prescription drug costs. The fate of both those provisions is uncertain in the Senate, where the chamber’s nonpartisan parliamentarian enforces rules that limit provisions allowed in budget bills.

In one major but expected difference with the White House, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill’s added $80 billion to increase IRS tax enforcement would let it collect $207 billion in new revenue over the coming decade. That meant net savings of $127 billion, well below the White House’s more optimistic $400 billion estimate.

In a scorekeeping quirk, CBO officially estimated that the overall legislation would drive up federal deficits by $367 billion over the coming decade. Agency guidelines require it to ignore IRS savings when measuring a bill’s deficit impact, but it acknowledged that the IRS savings would ease budget shortfalls by a lower $160 billion.

Biden and other Democratic leaders have said the measure would pay for itself, largely through tax increases on the wealthy, big corporations and companies doing business abroad.

Both parties worry about deficits selectively. 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 that same price tag.

Republicans said the latest legislation would damage the economy, give tax breaks to some wealthy taxpayers and make government bigger and more intrusive. Drawing frequent GOP attacks was a provision boosting 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 CBO’s figures.

Florida Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a leading centrist, backed the measure, saying the latest numbers showed the legislation “is fiscally disciplined.”

Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote gives Democrats control of the 50-50 Senate. That leaves Democrats with zero votes to spare, giving enormous leverage to Manchin in upcoming bargaining. The altered bill would have to return to the House before going to Biden’s desk.

The nonpartisan private Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which preaches fiscal constraint, estimated that the bill’s overall cost would be nearly $5 trillion if Democrats hadn’t made some of its programs temporary. That includes tax credits for children that Democrats extended for just one year, making their price tags appear lower, even though the party would like those programs to be permanent.

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AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro and reporter Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

(14) comments

Joseph Tafoya

This $1.7 trillion boondoggle will effectively kill CAP on tax credits claimed by those elite billionaires that pay taxes in the state where they reside. Before the CAP, they claimed tax credit on the amount they paid to the states. Therefore, the federal government was paying the elite billionaires taxes to the states where they reside. Without the CAP on the tax credit, they will receive an enormous tax break, which will be picked up by the rest of the taxpayers. Way to go Biden.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup]Well said Mr. Tafoya. The removal of the cap on SALT deductions for the wealthiest Americans flies in the face of the principles the "Democratic" Socialists claim to have about wealth distribution. Bernie and AOC are the biggest cheerleaders to remove that cap, and allow unlimited deductions, only the richest people in the US use. They are hypocrites.

Mike Johnson

The truth about this bill: "The CBO found that the Build Back Better Act would add $367 billion to the deficit; the Democrats’ official price tag is $1.75 trillion. President Joe Biden and other Democrats have claimed the bill would cost zero dollars.

The nonpartisan organization also found that the bill would add roughly $160 billion to the deficit over ten years, and almost $750 billion over five years.

The Build Back Better Act contains arbitrary policy sunsets and expirations to make the cost of the legislation appear lower and have the legislation comply with the rules for budgetary reconciliation.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget found that the legislation would cost $4.91 trillion if many of the policies and programs with sunsets did not expire.

This includes permanent extensions of:

Extending the increase in the Child Tax Credit (CTC)

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

universal pre-kfngarten and child care subsidies

Affordable Care Act increased subsidies

The Committee noted:

The Build Back Better Act relies on a substantial amount of short-term policies and arbitrary sunsets to reduce its cost, raising the possibility of deficit-financed extensions in future years. A more robust and fiscally responsible package would not rely on these gimmicks to achieve deficit neutrality."

Robert Fields

It isn’t an exaggeration to say we are making decisions about humanity’s survival. The planet can only get so hot before ecosystems collapse as big parts start dying off. Pretty technical look at the correlation between high earth temperatures and mass extinction events in Nature this last August…

“Nevertheless, global mean temperatures have already risen by ~1 °C since 1850, and the heavy fossil fuel use scenario trajectory of anthropogenic carbon emissions (Shared Socioeconomic Pathway, SSP5-8.5) predicts that a temperature increase matching our geologically defined magnitude threshold for mass extinction (i.e. 5.2 °C above the pre-industrial level) would be reached by ~2100.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-25019-2

It’s amazing this still needs to be said, but the planet is warming. It’s a pretty clear year on year temperature increase that anyone should spot just by looking at figure 1 in this link that shows average global temperature over the years.

https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-global-temperature

So anyway, it can help to push things like mass extinction events out farther into the future if folks make good choices now but time is starting to really wind down on this stuff. It’s kind of mind bending that we are seeing dates of major consequences for our fossil fuel use. Even worse to think it’s only 80 years away according to the Nature paper.

Will we hit 5.2 by 2100? Hard to say. Another paper looks at that question and you can learn about scenarios and humans, governments, rivalries, and how things make it maybe more likely that we do or at least get close to it.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01125-x

It’s all up to humanity.

Mike Johnson

Luckily we have moderate/conservative Democrats in the Senate to return sanity and remove socialism from this mess.

John Cook

You just can't stand anything that helps those you call 'common people'. If it isn't a bill to keep billionaires and big corporations from paying taxes you say it is socialism. To you 'socialism' just means it isn't helping the rich get richer while destroying the middle class.

Mike Johnson

Not at all Mr. Cook. Socialism to me is an end point in the political philosophy spectrum that has been described as "to each according to need, from each according to ability". In other words, a large collectivism government that rules over the people and controls the distribution of wealth, not as in capitalism, where abilities, hard work, and individual responsibilities determine wealth distribution. Socialism is where government (and thus politicians) is big, wealthy, reins supreme, and controls most things in people's lives. The more government (politicians) involves itself in more and more facets of society, the more that end point is approached. It doesn't have to be the seizure of all means of production, it can be more gradual and subtle, like politicians deciding winners and losers in the free markets, as they are trying to do in this bill with EVs and renewable energy. Joe Manchin, and myself, will object to that, and remove such things from the bill. Giving people free services, like day care, pre-K (which is the same thing), college, months and months of paid leave with no strings, etc. ia also creeping socialism, as people don't have to earn it or pay for it. Much of that has been stricken from the bill, but much remains to remove too. Billionaires (modern robber barons really), like Musk, Bezos, Zuckerberg, Gates, etc. need to pay through the nose, IMO, in high taxes, and people who live in high tax states who want no limits on SALT, mostly all rich, do not need to get a break on that either. Hopefully, there will be a low limit on what they can deduct, these rich people don't need subsidies either, but Bernie, AOC, etc. want them to have them, go figure......

John Cook

No more needs to be said than that you begin with a quote from Karl Marx who was as far from a socialist as you are from a believer in a 'free market'. cf.: the oil depletion allowance.

Mike Johnson

Maybe you should read the book on the subject Mr. Cook, and educate yourself about Marx....https://www.amazon.com/Fathers-Socialism-Life-Legacy-Karl-ebook/dp/B008PH7TS6

Mark Stahl

Where did you learn to read and write? Public schools, along with public services like the police and fire departments, waste removal, sewage and water, public libraries, roads and bridges, Social Security and Medicare, are all elements of “creeping socialism “ that are deeply entrenched in our country . Should we turn these over to your beloved capitalists? Would you have to pay before or after they put the fire out?

Mike Johnson

Mr. Stahl, private enterprise would do all these things cheaper, more efficiently, and with less corruption than the government politicians practice. But, we have so much entrenched socialism already, as you point out, we are past the point of recovering these, but that is no excuse to add even more political incompetence and corruption when more things are "socialized" in our lives.

Joseph Tafoya

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Mark Stahl

Mr Johnson, you put entirely to much faith in the greed of others- free enterprise. My father worked for an oil company for forty years, contributing monthly to their private pension fund after being promised a comfortable retirement. Not long before that retirement, the pension fund collapsed either through mismanagement or corruption. The end result, $36.00 a month, enough for his haircut and a hot dog. Thankfully, he also had a Social Security check and Medicare. Also, you didn’t answer my question- do you pay before or after the fire?

Emily Koyama

Billionaires can (and will pay much more in taxes.)

Of course, the Musks, Gates, and Bezo's created tens or hundreds of billions in new tax revenue through payroll taxes and sales taxes, etc, in part because of the hundreds of thousands of jobs they created, but you people always conveniently forget that little detail.

High taxes on "big evil corporations" will just be passed on to the middle and lower classes, hurting them far more than it will hurt the Pelosis of this world.

As for socialism, Bernie's "democratic socialism", (or even what passes for our "Republic" in Washington these days), it surely enriches the ruling elite.

Any bets AOC and the Squad will all be multi-millionaires in ten years or less?

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