House Democrats plan to approve its broad measure on Friday to bolster the nation’s social security programs and begin responding to the climate crisis, a much-needed demonstration of progress for President Biden’s legislative agenda even as it faces more obstacles.
Their attempt to pass the bill late Thursday was thwarted by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), who held control of the House floor and blocked the vote for more than three hours before Democratic leaders rescheduled voting for Friday morning.
Democrats seemed to have enough support to pass the package after the House can vote, leaving little suspense about the outcome.
McCarthy used his speech to attack the bill, previewing his party’s midterm election message.
“For the first time in the country,” McCarthy said, “this generation does not believe they will be better than the generation before them. This bill almost guarantees it. They are guaranteed that they will have to pay more and receive less. ”
McCarthy began speaking around 8:30 pm As a congressional leader, he was able to hold the speech as long as he continued to speak. He was still speaking at 1:30 a.m. Friday.
A senior Democratic aide said the House will end its session when McCarthy finishes his speech, and will return later Friday morning to resume the voting process.
The surprising last-minute problem came after months of delays and negotiations between House Democrats moderates and progressives, Senate Democrats and the White House on the bill. During that time, the total price tag was halved to about $ 1.7 trillion, and some of its most progressive policies were cut or tailored to gain the support of centrists.
However, the social spending bill – which Democrats call “Rebuild Better” – would advance many priorities that progressives have been seeking for years, including expanding Medicare coverage to include hearing aids, allowing the federal government to negotiate certain prices for Medicare drugs, implementing universal medicines. preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds and providing child care grants for most Americans.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) Called it “the most consistent legislation for American families since the New Deal,” promising that it will “review and reimagine entire sectors of our economy and society so that everyone, not just those at the top,” will benefit from a growing economy. “
But that revision – as well as the cost – drew strong criticism from Republicans.
“This is an absolute disgrace,” Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) Said of the bill. He said some provisions considered, such as paid family leave and restoration of part of the federal deduction on state and local taxes, would benefit the rich at the expense of the middle class. “It will change the United States as we know it.”
McCarthy warned that the policy is so unpopular that Democrats could lose more than 63 seats in next year’s midterm election if they implement it.
His speech, which aroused support from his fellow Republicans, came as McCarthy faced confrontational questions about his leadership of a number of members of his party assembly, including allies of President Trump as deputy Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, for failing to punish members of his party, who. maintained Biden’s infrastructure bill.
After passing in the House, the current bill will pass in the Senate, where it is likely to be amended, perhaps significantly, to gain the support of all 48 Senate Democrats and the two independents. House Democrats would then have to vote again, which could push a final passage to late December.
Several political issues remain unresolved and will have to be addressed before a Senate vote.
The Senate is expected to strip the House’s provision for four weeks of paid family and medical leave due to opposition from Senator Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.), a key centrist.
The House bill would give deportation protection to immigrants who have been in the country illegally since before 2011 – a much less ambitious immigration policy than Democrats had hoped. It is unclear whether the proposal can pass through the Senate.
The bill is also expected to widen the federal deduction on state and local taxes – lessening a Trump-era policy that has affected many Californians – but there is a major conflict between the House and Senate over how to do so.
The House plan would raise the so-called annual SALT limit from $ 10,000 to $ 80,000 by the end of the decade, and bring it back to $ 10,000 for one year in 2031. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) And Robert Menendez (DN ). .J.) Has a separate plan that would simply exempt people from a limit if their income falls below a certain amount, perhaps $ 400,000.
But the idea of breaking the cap has already become a political barrier for Republicans and even one Democrat who says it’s a reward for the rich. Deputy Jared Golden (D-Maine) said he would vote against the bill because of the “SALT grant.”
Despite the unfinished business, House Democrats want to make a demonstration of progress after weeks of uncertainty about Biden’s agenda. Moderators, who held a vote on the social spending bill two weeks ago while waiting for the final cost estimates, quickly lined up after the figures were released Thursday.
Earlier this month, Democrats abandoned plans to keep the social spending bill tied to another endeavor – a measure to address the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges. Biden signed the infrastructure bill into law earlier this week after progressive Democrats softened their insistence that the two bills be voted on together.
Progressives said they would trust Biden to make the vote in the Senate, where Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) Have already negotiated the bill significantly down from the $ 3.5 trillion plan Democrats once envisioned.
The political futures of Biden and the congressional Democrats are linked in the two legislatures. The president told congressional Democrats in a closed-door meeting last month that his presidency and their control of Congress may depend on how the public views the measures. That thought took on even greater urgency when Democrats saw the Virginia gubernatorial election go for Republicans and when Biden’s approval ratings fell.
Democrats are already discussing an extensive campaign to sell the package and make sure voters know there were Democrats who implemented the policies, some of which are expected to be popular.
To reduce costs, most of the policies would be valid for only a few years. That would leave a future Congress – which could be led by Republicans – and a White House with the question of whether to renew them or allow them to expire, setting the provisions as 2024 presidential campaign themes.
The bill may also mark the latest major legislative efforts for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who said in 2018 that she will not serve as a speaker after 2022. The universal pre-K and child care provisions – as well as enhanced supports in the Affordable Care Act – give a cornerstone to her ten-year focus on children and universal care.
Other important pieces of the bill include a one-year extension of the monthly child tax rebate that the White House estimates would reach the parents of 90% of children in America. It would provide health coverage to poor people in states that have not expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, closing the so-called Medicaid coverage gap.
The bill also attempts to address homelessness by funding repairs to public housing and helping poor people pay for housing, although large cities with major public housing projects are more likely to benefit than a low-density public housing state like California.
Much of the bill would be funded by a higher tax on Americans who earn more than $ 400,000 a year, plus an additional 5% tax on those who earn more than $ 10 million – a policy the White House estimates would apply to 0.02% of Americans. Large corporations would face a new 15% minimum tax on the profits they report to shareholders.
The Congressional Budget Office, which provides unbiased economic analysis for Congress, said the bill will add $ 160 billion to the deficit over a decade. Democrats said the bill would be a neutral budget.
The White House urged Democrats to use their own estimate of the savings from a new Internal Revenue Service policy, which according to the administration would generate $ 400 billion in revenue, rather than the CBO’s $ 207 billion estimate. According to the White House estimate, the bill would reduce the deficit.
The IRS provision – the agency will receive $ 80 billion over the decade to strengthen enforcement of tax fraud – is controversial in more ways than one. Republicans predict that conservative groups and ordinary people will be more likely to be controlled by their taxes according to the policy.
Democrats plan to pass the social spending bill through the Senate using a fast-paced legislative process that prevents GOP filibustion. But the process, called reconciliation, requires that all provisions adhere to Senate rules, which require that all provisions relate to the budget. The process of reviewing the bill for violations could result in more cuts or rewrites.
Democrats quickly found that even without Republicans, creating the social spending bill was difficult and time-consuming. Disagreements between centrists and progressives blocked the negotiation. Sinema and Manchin, who expressed concerns about the cost and expansiveness of the plan, became frequent guests at the White House to negotiate with Biden or his staff.
In a 50-50 divided Senate, Democrats need every vote to pass the measure, giving Manchin and Sinema extraordinary leverage. Progressives have faced pressure to give up many of their long-sought priorities or risk missing out on anything.
Sinema protested against picking up President Trump’s reduction in the corporate tax rate and allowing Medicare to negotiate a full list of drug prices.
A free community college fell by the wayside when the overall price tag was forced down.
Manchin rejected the Clean Electricity Efficiency Program, which would have encouraged utilities to increase their use of renewable energy through a combination of payments and fines.
The remaining climate supplies would invest about $ 500 billion in tax incentives and subsidies that would try to move the country away from fossil fuels. While supporters say it is the most ambitious climate policy ever implemented, it has few competitors, and is far less ambitious than they had hoped.
In a comparison that causes concern among some moderates and fiscal hawks, many Democrats have compared the broad scope and funding of the bill to New Crime-era legislation.
Majority leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) Called the measure an “extraordinary investment, as the president says, a‘ generational changing ’investment in the lives of average workers and women in this country, and their access to health care., Their access to education and access to opportunity. “