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Democrats’ $ 1.7 billion spending bill clears House, but Senate changes jobs

“With the passage of the Build Back Better Act, we, this Democratic Congress, are taking our place in the long and honorable legacy of our democracy with legislation that will be the backbone of financial health and security in America,” said Pelosi in a statement. speech on the ground before the vote. “It will be historic to forge historic progress for our nation. “

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Pelosi’s longtime deputy, called it “one of the most important bills a member will ever vote on.”

All but one The Democrat – Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) – voted in favor of the package, with all Republicans opposed. Democratic leaders originally wanted to vote Thursday night but abandoned this plan after Minority Parliamentary Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke with a more than eight-hour speech referencing everything from Teslas to Tiananmen Square.

It will be at least two weeks before the Senate reviews the legislation, and even then the bill is likely to undergo high-level changes to ensure that it can comply with the rules of the upper house and get the support of the 50 Democrats.

Some of the bill’s most popular provisions will likely be struck down in the Senate for political or parliamentary reasons. Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), for example, has opposed the bill’s provisions expanding paid family leave, and many Democrats are pessimistic that their modest immigration reform proposal will be in accordance with Senate budgetary rules.

And Senate Republicans will attempt to force last-minute changes during a long marathon of votes which, unlike previous so-called “vote-a-rama” sessions on social spending measurement, could actually change its course. text if they can win a single Democrat. After this Senate review, the bill will almost certainly bounce back in the House for a final vote, with key elements potentially altered in the final package.

“Passing this… will change the focus of the process and the numbers from the top to the substance,” said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), Chairman of the budget committee, acknowledging that he did not He was sometimes unsure whether the bill could be passed by the House. with such narrow margins.

Yarmuth did not deny that he was concerned about what senators would remove from the bill in the coming weeks. “No matter what we do here, we are concerned about the Senate.”

If enacted, the legislation will be a defining moment for Biden and Pelosi after decades as Democratic leaders in Washington. Pelosi told his caucus it was the most transformational vote they would cast in their career in Congress and described it as the “culmination” of his life’s work after nearly two decades at the helm. House Democrats and two historic terms as a speaker.

Democrats are also hoping the spending program will give their party a much needed boost as they enter a potentially perilous midterm year. With less than a year to go, Democrats are watching Biden’s poll numbers drop amid a series of both domestic and foreign stumbles – while looking at the newly redesigned congressional maps that are likely to heavily favor the republicans.

But many top Democrats argue that if there is anything that can reverse their plight, it is a sprawling set of policies that will help millions of people – whether through education, care. health, help for children and the elderly or climate investments.

And they say the party’s top priority should now be to cry victory from the rooftops.

“I hope the Senate will pass this very quickly. But then the big job is to come out and do it, implement it, talk about it and let people know what’s coming, ”said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) , who heads the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos, who led the House Democrats’ campaign arm in the last cycle, made a few suggestions: “Don’t talk about it in political terms. Throw out the word “trillion” of dollars, the word “billion” dollars. Just talk about what it means to people.

The bill contains historic measures that encompass almost every committee of the House.

For example, Democrats are pushing forward the biggest change to America’s healthcare system since the Affordable Care Act was passed over a decade ago, in a bid to make insurance cheaper or free for millions. more people, provide new benefits to seniors on Medicare, and reduce the cost of prescription drugs.

The bill also includes a major restructuring of U.S. taxes for employees and high-income businesses, including a new minimum tax on large corporations and a new levy on share buybacks. The proposal also calls for a new surtax on millionaires, although Democrats have sworn that no one earning less than $ 400,000 a year will no longer pay taxes.

Other tax provisions in the bill represent the government’s biggest boost to domestic manufacturing since the New Deal outside of the defense budget, collectively setting aside $ 320 billion in tax incentives. These include new tax credits to produce solar panels, batteries, semiconductors and other energy technologies in the home – all areas where the United States lags behind China in the manufacturing.

But another tax provision repealing a Trump-era limit on state and local tax deductions, known as SALT, divided the democrats. Lawmakers in high tax states have pushed for the repeal, which will give tax relief to high and middle income earners in those states. But others have argued that the change also equates to tax relief for millionaires and billionaires, giving Republicans – none of whom voted for the legislation – a powerful political weapon next year.

The Congressional Budget Office predicts that the package will increase the federal deficit by $ 160 billion over a decade. It flies in the face of Biden and the Main Democrats’ long-standing promise that the bill will be paid in full.

The White House is disputing the CBO’s number, saying it does not fully account for the money coming from the increased IRS enforcement under the bill – additional revenue which officials say administration, will cover the full cost of the legislation.

Friday’s vote ends more than eight months of messy negotiations as Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Biden himself tried to rally their party behind a single proposal.

Biden first announced the proposal in April, just weeks after signing a $ 1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan. But progress towards a final project has been extremely slow.

For months, Democrats fought for the full price, going from a $ 3.5 trillion budget to a possible $ 1.7 trillion package. Recalcitrant centrists like Manchin forced leaders to drop parts of the bill, such as the free community college, an ambitious Medicare expansion, and the permanent creation of an expanded child tax credit.

House lawmakers railed against the influence of Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), whose opposition excluded from the final bill such provisions as tax hikes for high-income taxpayers and Biden’s clean energy program.

Yet House Democrats also struggled to come together on the bill. Moderate and progressive wings of the party rebelled against their leaders, which costs time and patience. Pelosi and his team have made two attempts to bring the bill to the prosecution, but have been repeatedly derailed by disputes over the adoption process that stem from the decision of the Main Democrats to tie the bill to the social spending to a separate infrastructure bill.

But Democrats insist those months of wrangling will soon be forgotten when the legislation is enacted.

I don’t think most people watch the chore from day to day. We all worry about it, everyone is watching the sausage making, are we going to make it happen? Said Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.). “Most people have wired news off because it’s boring for their lives. But I think we can make it interesting.

Olivia Beavers, Alice Miranda Ollstein, Burgess Everett, Gavin Bade and Bernie Becker contributed to this report.


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