Despite the overwhelming opposition of Republicans, the House barely enacted the cornerstone of President Biden’s domestic plan on Friday, authorising $2.2 trillion in spending over the next decade to combat climate change, expand health care, and reweave the nation’s social safety net.
Republicans voted against the bill 220 to 212, following weeks of cajoling, arm-twisting and parliamentary legerdemain on the part of Democrats. It was capped off by the House Republican leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, delivering an exhausting, circuitous, and record-breaking speech that lasted more than eight hours and caused a planned Thursday vote to be delayed until Friday morning — but did nothing to weaken Democratic unity.
Three hours after Mr. McCarthy finally left the House floor, groggy legislators reconvened at 8 a.m. to begin the last sequence of votes necessary to send one of the most significant pieces of legislation in half a century to the Senate.
Former President Barack Obama said that the act “will be the pillar of health and financial security in America.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that members of Congress have stood exactly where we stand for centuries to pass legislation of extraordinary consequence in our nation’s history and for our nation’s future.
Despite this, the bill still has a long and arduous path ahead of it. To get it passed in the 50-50 Senate, Democratic leaders will have to traverse a complex budget process that is nearly guaranteed to modify the legislation and send it back to the House of Representatives, if it passes at all.
However, even if the legislation is scaled back from the $3.5 trillion plan that President Biden originally sought, it has the potential to be as transformative as any legislation passed since the Great Society and the War on Poverty in the 1960s, particularly for young families and older Americans. The Congressional Budget Office released an official cost estimate for the package on Thursday afternoon, concluding that it would raise the federal budget deficit by $160 billion over a ten-year period.
In general, the evaluation found that the package would cost somewhat more than Mr. Biden’s previous plan — $2.2 trillion rather than $1.85 trillion — in terms of total cost.
The bill provides universal prekindergarten, generous child care subsidies that reach well into the middle class, increased financial aid for college, hundreds of billions of dollars in housing assistance, home and community care for older Americans, a new Medicare hearing benefit, and price controls for prescription drugs.
The fact that the bill has the potential to slightly increase the federal deficit did not deter House Democrats from voting in favour of it, in part because the debate boiled down to a disagreement over a single line item: how much the Internal Revenue Service would collect by cracking down on people and businesses who avoid paying large amounts of tax.
Ultimately, it was Mr. McCarthy, the most powerful Republican in the House, who made a last-ditch effort to defeat the legislation in that chamber, taking advantage of what is known as the “magic minute” — a tradition that allows party leaders to speak without being limited by time constraints when they are granted their minute of floor time.
Democrats started embracing and dancing in the halls of the House chamber as the vote total reached 218. They chanted, “Build Back Better,” as they did so. As soon as Ms. Pelosi pounded the gavel to signify the conclusion of the vote, members of Congress mobbed her on the House floor, chanting her name and cheering her on, as Republicans sat expressionless across the chamber.
The move — which came after months of time-consuming wrangling over the bill — was motivated in part by members’ desire to finish their job and get out of Washington for their weeklong Thanksgiving holiday. He made the announcement eight months after announcing the first part of his domestic policy programme, and after multiple near-death experiences for the package that showed profound splits within his own party, according to the Associated Press.
Given the difficulties encountered in reaching this point, Democratic unity was impressive. Uncertain about the scale of the bill, a handful of moderate and conservative holdouts had been waiting for an official assessment before committing to backing it.