Politics & Policy

House Passes ‘Build Back Better’ Spending Bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to reporters during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 23, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

The House on Friday voted to pass Democrats’ $1.8 trillion social-spending bill, moving President Biden’s signature legislative initiative one step closer to being signed into law.

The measure passed in a 220-213 vote after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) delivered a record breaking eight-hour long speech on the House floor during debate in which he blasted Biden and Democrats on an array of issues from Afghanistan to the border and called the reconciliation bill “the single most reckless and irresponsible spending bill in our nation’s history.”

Representative Jared Golden of Maine was the only Democrat to vote against the bill.

During the GOP leader’s speech, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement calling McCarthy’s remarks a “temper tantrum” and saying he made “unhinged claims” and “did everything he could to avoid talking about the deficit reducing, inflation crushing Build Back Better Act.”

The vote came shortly after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the spending package would add $367 billion to the deficit between 2022 and 2031, not counting any additional revenue that might be generated by ramped-up tax-enforcement provisions included in the bill.

A group of five moderate Democrats had stopped a previous effort to vote on the bill, demanding to see more information from the CBO before a final vote would occur.

The CBO predicts that enhanced tax enforcement will pull in $207 billion, for a net revenue of $127 billion. Counting those offsets, the bill would add a total of $160 billion to the deficit over the next ten years.

The CBO estimate came in much lower than a White House prediction that allotting $80 billion for better tax enforcement would net $400 billion in revenue.

The White House got out ahead of the potential for a bad CBO score on the tax-enforcement provision with deputy press secretary Andrew Bates on Wednesday saying that “there has been wide agreement on the part of everyone involved — moderates, liberals, et cetera — that CBO does not have experience analyzing revenue amounts gained from cracking down on wealthy tax cheats who are taking advantage of every honest taxpayer.”

Democrats negotiated for months on the social-spending package — the initial proposal for the reconciliation bill was estimated to cost $3.5 trillion but was later reduced to $1.75 trillion by the White House. The new, pared-down package cut out several provisions including free community college and 12 weeks of paid family leave. However, the House version includes four weeks of paid family leave for qualifying Americans, which the CBO estimated would cost $205 billion.

The House bill also raises the cap on the amount of state and local taxes that individuals can deduct from their federal taxes from $10,000 to $80,000.

The White House has repeatedly claimed the legislation would be paid for in full and would even help ease inflationary pressures and reduce the deficit over time.

The bill now heads to the evenly divided Senate where Democrats plan to use the process of budget reconciliation to pass the measure with a simple majority vote.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) has acknowledged that the plan that is ultimately approved by the Senate will likely differ from the one that was passed in the House. Democrats in the Senate are likely to remove the paid-leave plan and alter the SALT deduction.

However, she said regardless of the discrepancies, the bill will be “transformative and historic.”

Meanwhile, just 25 percent of Americans believe the massive social-spending package and the bipartisan infrastructure bill would help them if they became law, while 32 percent believe the spending bills would hurt people like them, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll. Nearly 18 percent think the bills would make no difference.

The bill is not expected to pass the Senate quickly: Moderate Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), who represents a crucial vote in the evenly divided Senate, has long expressed reservations about the measure, including concerns about inflation. Additionally, the Senate will be likely to focus on bills to fund the government and to raise or suspend the debt ceiling in early December.

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