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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Dems’ comprehensive social, climate bill passed in a divided house

by Alan Fram

WASHINGTON (AP) – Democrats bypassed a months-long division and pushed their sweeping social and environmental bill through an sharply divided House on Friday, as President Joe Biden and his party lost control of the government by funneling its resources. Went close to cashing in. Top household priorities.

The House approved the legislation by a near party-line 220–213 vote, sending the measure to a Senate where cost cuts were sought by Liberal Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.VA, and that chamber’s strict rules forced significant changes. seem certain to do. This will lead to new disputes between the centrist and progressive people of the party, which will take several weeks to resolve.

Nevertheless, the House passage marked a watershed for a measure notable for the breadth and depth of the changes made to federal policies. Far-reaching changes in taxation, health care, energy, climate change, family services, education and housing are covered in one bill. It reflects Democrats’ desire to achieve their goals while controlling the White House and Congress, a dominance that could end after next year’s midterm elections.

Biden described the vote as “another big step” for the country.

“Above all, it puts us on the path to making our economy better than ever by rebuilding America’s backbone: the working people and middle class,” he said in a statement.

Democrats gathered in front of the chamber as the final roll call ticked, many holding hands. “Build back better,” many chanted, using Biden’s name for the remedy. Their cheers intensified as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi closed the vote.

Republicans had little to celebrate, but they showed some enthusiasm. “Good luck in the Senate,” taunted Florida Representative Cat Camac.

The House vote also gave Biden a momentary taste of victory, and relief, perhaps during the most difficult period of his presidency. Reflecting voters’ concerns over falling approvals, inflation, gridlocked supply chains and the persistent coronavirus pandemic in the polls, Democrats were concerned that their legislative efforts were not breaking through to voters.

Pelosi underscored Democrats’ efforts to influence the public, saying, “If you’re a parent, a senior, a child, an activist, if you’re an American, this bill is for you.”

Main rape. Jared Golden was the only Democrat to vote.

Biden this week signed a $1 trillion package of highway and other infrastructure projects, another priority that has been overtaken by months of internal Democratic battles. The president has promoted that measure across the country in recent days.

Final approval of the big bill expected on Thursday was delayed, when Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., delivered an extensive eight-and-a-half-hour speech criticizing Biden, Democrats and the bill, the longest speech ever. House. When he finished his remarks near dawn, dozens of members nominated their allies to vote, before the House resumed its work.

Standing and occasionally referring to a binder on his desk, McCarthy screamed and at times made a hoarse voice. Democrats sporadically groaned and scowled as McCarthy looked back, outlining partisan hostility this week by condemning Rep. Paul Goser, R-Ariz., for threatening tweets aimed at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D.N.Y. .

McCarthy, who is expected to take over the Republican chamber in next year’s elections, recounted the problems faced by the country under Biden, including inflation, China’s growth and large numbers of immigrants crossing the Southwest border. “Yeah, I want to go back,” he said, mocking the “Build Back Better” name that Biden uses for the law.

House rules do not limit how long a party leader can speak. In 2018, Pelosi, then-minority leader, held the stage for just over eight hours, demanding action on immigration. Until McCarthy’s speech, his speech was the longest ever in the House.

Friday’s vote came after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the package would slash the federal deficit by $160 billion over the coming decade. The agency also recalculated the measure’s 10-year price tag to $1.68 trillion, although that figure was not directly comparable with the $1.85 trillion figure that Democrats are using.

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Initiatives for the 2,100-page bill include boosting child care support, building free preschools, curbing drug costs for senior citizens, and ramping up efforts to slow climate change. This includes tax credits to encourage clean energy development, aid with childcare, and expanded tax breaks for millions of families with children, low-income workers and those who buy private health insurance.

Much of this would be paid for by tax increases on the wealthy, large corporations and companies doing business abroad.

The measure would provide $109 billion to build free preschools for children between the ages of 3 and 4. That’s a huge amount for home health care for seniors, new Medicare coverage for hearing loss, and a new requirement for four weeks of paid family leave. However, the family holiday program was expected to be dropped in the Senate, where Manchin opposed it.

The government also has language to issue work permits to millions of immigrants that will let them stay in the US temporarily, and to save the government $297 billion to curb drug costs. The fate of both of those provisions is uncertain in the Senate, where the chamber’s nonpartisan lawmakers enact rules that limit the provisions allowed in budget bills.

In a major but expected gap with the White House, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that an additional $80 billion in bills to increase IRS tax enforcement would collect $207 billion in new revenue over the coming decade. This means net savings of $127 billion, far less than the White House’s optimistic estimate of $400 billion.

In a scorekeeping quirk, the CBO officially estimated that the overall legislation would push the federal deficit to $367 billion in the coming decade. Agency guidelines required that the IRS ignore savings when measuring the deficit impact of the bill, but acknowledged that IRS savings would reduce the budget shortfall by at least $160 billion.

Biden and other Democratic leaders have said the measure will pay for itself, largely through tax increases on the wealthy, large corporations and companies doing business abroad.

Both parties are concerned about selective losses. Republicans passed tax cuts in 2017, leaving $1.9 trillion in red ink, while Democrats enacted a COVID-19 relief bill with the same price tag this year.

Republicans said the latest law would hurt the economy, give tax breaks to some wealthy taxpayers and make the government bigger and more meddling. Attracting repeated GOP attacks was a provision raising the limit on state and local taxes that people can deduct from federal taxes, which disproportionately helps the top earners from high-tax coastal states.

Liberal Democrats were convinced by the CBO figures.

Florida Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a leading centrist, backed the measure, saying the latest numbers showed the law was “financially disciplined.”

Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote gives Democrats 50-50 control of the Senate. This leaves the Democrats with zero votes, giving Munchkin a huge advantage in the ensuing bargain. The changed bill has to be returned to the House before it can go to Biden’s desk.

The nonpartisan Private Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which campaigns for fiscal constraints, estimated the total cost of the bill would have been around $5 trillion if Democrats had not made some of its programs temporary. This includes tax credits for children that Democrats have extended for only one year, making their price tags appear low, even if the party would like to keep those programs permanent.


AP Congressional correspondent Lisa Mascaro and reporter Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.

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