(Trends Wide) — House Democrats are about to pass President Joe Biden’s comprehensive social spending and climate change bill after months of bickering. But Friday’s likely victory will only raise new questions about whether the $ 1.9 trillion measure can outlive the Senate and then deliver the short-term jolt of political energy that Biden’s reeling presidency needs.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hoped to finally pass a bill Thursday night that had caused fierce battles between progressives and moderates in her group. But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had other ideas.
Marathon speech by the Republican leader
In a histrionic coda to the bill’s tumultuous stay in the House, the Californian Republican spoke for hours, seeking to push the vote late into the night with a meandering and repetitive filibuster-style speech. He touched on immigration, Afghanistan, his own life story and repeatedly hit Biden for high gas prices and inflation, and mixed personal attacks on Pelosi when his voice started to grow hoarse in the wee hours of the morning. . McCarthy was using the party leaders’ privilege to speak for unlimited time. But Democrats, calling the move a “tantrum,” delayed the vote until Friday morning and many of their members left, leaving the Republican leader to move forward.
“He wants to do it in the middle of the night. We’re going to do it in the daylight,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said shortly after midnight. A Democratic House aide added: “Leader McCarthy may continue his delusion late into the night. The House will come back and vote early Friday morning so the American people know that, looking ahead to the Thanksgiving week, House Democrats are fighting with President Biden to Build Back Better (‘Build Back Better,’ as the name of the project). “
Months of infighting
Despite the delay and months of bitter infighting, House Democrats appear to finally have the votes to pass one of the broadest health care and education reforms in decades as part of a bill that also includes more than US $ 500,000 million to combat climate change.
Hoyer said he knew of only one Democratic defection: Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, who announced his opposition Thursday night but did not rule out voting for the final package in the future. The Democratic majority in the House is so small that Pelosi needs nearly every member to back the bill, as the Republican Party is likely to be uniformly opposed, which is one of the reasons getting to this point has been so hard.
Confusion around the Build Back Better project
The bitterness and sense of chaos in McCarthy’s speech epitomized the confusion that has raged around the Build Back Better bill for months. In fact, the spectacle of Democrats fighting over their size has obscured much of what the package contains.
And while it represents a cornerstone of Biden’s agenda and is intended to alleviate the economic woes faced by millions of Americans, polls show that many voters believe the president is failing to address the nation’s most important issues at a time of rising inflation and high gasoline prices.
But while attacking the bill, the Democratic caucus and the president, McCarthy may have had other motives as well. He faces increased pressure from former President Donald Trump’s allies, including former White House Secretary Mark Meadows, who suggested on Thursday that Trump should be elected president if the Republican Party wins the House next year.
McCarthy has done everything possible to protect the former president from the consequences of his coup attempt and to make his party an obedient tool in Trump’s political arsenal. But leading the charge with an hour-long speech that frustrated Democrats will certainly guarantee McCarthy great coverage on social media, and may garner praise from Trump himself.
Uncertain destination of the social spending bill in the Senate
The bill has at times threatened to wreck the Democratic Party, survived several brushes with extinction, and may still convict some threatened lawmakers in midterm elections if passed.
His fate in the Senate remains unclear. Moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, in particular, wary of its cost, is still unsure about the scale of many of his programs and the impact of the expanding bill on inflation. The reservations of the West Virginia senator, as well as those of the Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema, will present Biden with proof of his authority, as he had promised progressives that he could finally support both of them on the bill and secure their approval in the Senate.
Some progressives who wanted a much broader package are likely to be disappointed. That will especially be the case if Manchin requires further cuts to legislation as the price of his support in the Senate, where Democrats cannot afford to lose a single member of their caucus.
It would be a win for Biden
Still, the likely passage of the bill in the House after months of Democratic infighting, which at one point threatened to ruin the bipartisan infrastructure plan as well, represents a genuine victory for the president, which came the same week in who signed that infrastructure bill.
It could increase the enthusiasm for his administration among grassroots Democrats that he needs to avoid a disaster in the midterm elections next November. And while it has been cut roughly in half to win the support of moderate Democrats, the measure includes many programs the party has campaigned on in successive elections.
What would the social spending project provide
It would provide two years of free preschool education and vastly expand home health care for sick and elderly Americans.
The bill extends a child tax credit for one year that supporters say lifted millions out of poverty, expands Affordable Care Act subsidies, provides a Medicare hearing benefit and provides dozens billions of dollars for affordable housing.
If it finally passes through the Senate, where Democratic leaders aim for a final vote before the end of the year, the measure will enhance Biden’s claim for a place alongside some of his party’s top social reformers.
It would also be a landmark achievement for Pelosi, potentially even surpassing her successful push to pass the Affordable Care Act during the Obama administration, and could also be a highlight in the career of the nation’s first female speaker if Democrats lose control of the House next year.
Will the project be a political winner?
It’s unclear if the massive bill will be a political winner any time soon. While it would validate a central premise of the Biden case to voters last year that his years of experience on Capitol Hill would help him pass some big and serious reform legislation, the bill may not address the sinking factors. his presidency.
Biden’s approval ratings fell after a difficult summer that included Afghanistan’s chaotic pullout, a wave of delta variant covid-19 infections after the president said the pandemic was mostly over. In addition, they join the peak of inflation and the increase in gasoline prices that leave many voters disgruntled as the Christmas season approaches.
It is also possible that Democrats have gone too far in trying to pass massive liberal and social reform bills despite not having received a broad mandate during the 2020 elections.
Dramatic final hours
McCarthy played on those concerns in his marathon speech, warning that the measure’s “destructive policies” would hit American workers and families and could help convict Democrats in the midterm elections.
“It will crush American industries, it will destroy countless American jobs,” he said, comparing the bill to the passage of Obamacare in 2010, when he said he saw Pelosi “walk with Democratic members around here and get past Obamacare and lose 63 seats. . “
The dramatic final hours before the bill’s likely passage underscored the danger some lawmakers are facing in sending it to the Senate. Moderate Democrats had waited until the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its assessment of the measure’s impact on the deficit before agreeing to pass it.
The CBO estimated that the measure would result in a $ 367 billion net increase in the deficit between 2022 and 2031.
The White House, however, insists that the bill be paid in full. He says he can make up the shortfall because the bill includes funds for better enforcement of Internal Revenue Service tax collection.
Republicans on the deficit issue
But the CBO score represents a huge opening for Republicans who will target vulnerable members of the House next year with their claims that Democrats are on a “socialist” spending spree that will ruin future generations, as well. even though the Republican Party cared little about the deficit when Trump was president.
Republican leaders and allied groups were already grappling with the deficit issue in the hours leading up to early voting Thursday night. “Representatives Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Ed Case (HI-01), Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), Kurt Schrader (OR-05), and Kathleen Rice (NY-04) promised their constituents that they would not increase the deficit. If they break their word and vote for this bill, they are betraying their constituents, “said Growth Club president David McIntosh in a statement, for example.
In another twist, supporters of the bill must also overcome a dispute over a provision that would extend a state and local tax deduction that critics, including one of the bill’s authors, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, have said. which is wrong and bad policy.
Lifting the cap on state and local tax deductions has been a priority for members of high-tax states like New York and New Jersey, but progressives say the plan is a gift to the rich. In an unusual reversal of normal political practice, some conservative Republicans are making the same argument, despite their own 2017 tax bill, which limited deductions and gave tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations.