(Washington) – Democrats shrugged off months of divisions and moved closer to the House’s passage of their expansionary Social and Environmental Act Friday, as President Joe Biden and his party came close to scoring a definite victory as they seek to use their control of government to direct its resources toward domestic priorities.
The final clip, which was expected on Thursday, in which Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, suspended him with extended hours criticizing Biden, Democrats and the bill. Most Democrats left the room after midnight as McCarthy continued to speak, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland, told reporters that leaders intended to pass it later Friday.
The House of Representatives was still expected to approve a quasi-partisan line vote. That would send the measure to the Senate where cost-cutting demands were made by moderate Senator Joe Manchin, Deutsche Welle Virginia, and it appears that the chamber’s strict rules will almost certainly force major changes. This will create new rifts between centrists and moderates in the party that will likely take weeks to resolve.
However, the passage of the House of Representatives would mark a turning point for a notable measure of the breadth and depth of the changes he would make in federal policies. Far-reaching changes are included in one law in taxes, health care, energy, climate change, family services, education and housing. It underscored the Democrats’ desire to achieve their goals with control of the White House and Congress – a dominance that could end after next year’s midterm elections.
“A lot of Americans are just barely making ends meet in our economy,” Hoyer said. “And we simply cannot go back to how things were before the pandemic.”
A passage of the House of Representatives would also give Biden a temporary taste of victory, and perhaps respite, during perhaps the toughest of his presidency. It has been battered by low approval numbers in the polls, reflecting voter concerns about inflation, crowded supply chains and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which have left Democrats concerned that their legislative efforts are not being affected by voters.
Biden this week signed a trillion-dollar package for highways and other infrastructure projects, another priority that has weathered months of Democrats’ internal fighting. The president has spent recent days promoting the measure across the country.
McCarthy spent more than five hours afloat, at times screaming or shaking in a hoarse voice. Democrats booed and groaned intermittently as McCarthy rolled back, emphasizing that partisan animosity only deepened after this week’s reprimanding of Representative Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., for threatening tweets targeting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DNY.
McCarthy, who hopes to become Speaker of the House if Republicans take control of the House in next year’s elections, has eased the problems the country faced under Biden, including inflation, the rise of China and large numbers of immigrants crossing the southwestern border. “Yes, I want to go back,” he said sarcastically, referring to the name “Building Back Better” Biden uses in the legislation.
House rules do not limit how long party leaders may speak. In 2018, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the minority leader at the time, held the floor for more than eight hours to demand action on immigration.
The House moved closer to a final vote after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said 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, although that figure is not directly comparable to the $1.85 trillion used by Democrats.
The 2,100-page bill’s initiatives include boosting childcare assistance, creating free preschool, reducing the costs of older prescription drugs, and boosting efforts to slow climate change. Tax credits to spur clean energy development, enhanced childcare support and extended tax credits for millions of families with children, low-income workers and people who buy private health insurance are also included.
Most of it will be paid for by tax increases for large, wealthy corporations and companies doing business abroad.
The measure would save $109 billion to create free daycare for 3- to 4-year-olds. There are large sums of money for home health care for seniors, new Medicare coverage for hearing aids and a new requirement for four weeks of paid family leave. However, the removal of the family leave program was expected in the Senate, as Manchin opposed it.
There is also language that allows the government to issue work permits to millions of immigrants that allow them to remain in the United States temporarily, and $297 billion in savings from allowing the government to cut prescription drug costs. And the fate of those two items is uncertain in the Senate, where the nonpartisan MP is enforcing rules limiting provisions allowed in budget bills.
In one major but expected difference with the White House, the CBO estimated that the $80 billion added bill to boost IRS tax enforcement would allow it to collect $207 billion in new revenue over the next decade. That means $127 billion in net savings, well below the White House’s most optimistic estimate of $400 billion.
In an oddity of scoring, the CBO has officially estimated that the general legislation would increase the federal deficit by $367 billion over the next decade. But the agency’s guidance requires it to disregard IRS savings when measuring the impact of the bill’s deficit, and acknowledged that the true impact of the measure would increase the shortfall by $160 billion when calculating the additional revenue the IRS would collect.
Biden and other Democratic leaders have said the measure will pay for it, in large part through tax increases on the wealthy, large corporations and companies doing business abroad.
Both parties worry about selective deficits. Republicans passed tax cuts in 2017 that worsened red ink by $1.9 trillion, while Democrats passed a coronavirus relief bill this year at the same price.
Republicans said the latest legislation would hurt the economy, give tax breaks to some wealthy taxpayers, and make the government bigger and more intrusive. Drawing repeated GOP attacks was a condition that promoted limiting state and local taxes that people could deduct from federal taxes, which disproportionately help high-income earners from high-tax coastal states.
After months of talks, Democrats seemed excited to end it and start selling the package back home. They said they were planning 1,000 events across the country by the end of the year to deliver the benefits of the procedure to voters.
In the face of opposition from a united republic, the Democrats could not have lost more than three votes to win the House, but the moderates seemed reassured by the CBO figures. Some said expectations about IRS savings are always uncertain, and others said the bill does not need to pay nearly half a trillion dollars to encourage the need for cleaner energy because global warming is an existential crisis.
Florida Representative Stephanie Murphy, a prominent mediator, said she would support the measure after recent numbers showed the legislation was “financially disciplined” and “contains a lot of positive elements.”
The cut-off vote for Vice President Kamala Harris gives Democrats control of the Senate from 50 to 50. This leaves Democrats with no votes to spare, giving Manchin enormous leverage in the upcoming bargaining. The amended bill must return to the House of Representatives before going to Biden’s office.
The nonpartisan Committee on Responsible Federal Budget, which advocates fiscal constraints, estimated that the total cost of the bill would be about $5 trillion if Democrats did not make some of its programs temporary. For example, tax breaks for children and low-income workers are only extended for one year, making their prices appear lower, even though the party would like these programs to be permanent.
Associated Press congressional correspondent Lisa Mascaro and reporter Fernoush Amiri contributed to this report.