WASHINGTON (AP) — A divided House moved toward passage Thursday of Democrats’ expansive social and environment bill as new cost estimates from Congress’ top fiscal analyst suggested that moderate lawmakers’ spending and deficit worries would be calmed, moving President Joe BidenWe are one step closer to an urgent victory
After the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office stated that the bill will increase federal deficits by $160billion over the next decade, the final debate was held on long-delayed legislation. It also recalculated the measure’s 10-year price tag at $1.68 trillion, though that figure wasn’t directly comparable to a $1.85 trillion figure DemocratsYou have used.
House approval would ship the legislation to the Senate and end — though just for now — months of battling between Democrats’ progressives and moderates over its costs and policies. Significant Senate changes will likely be due to the cost-cutting demands of moderate Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), but House passage would allow Biden to win more domestic priorities in a moment when his public support is slipping badly.
The 2,100-page bill would bolster child care assistance, create free preschool, curb seniors’ prescription drug costs and beef up efforts to slow climate change.
“Build Back Better is a spectacular agenda for the future, with transformational action on health care, family care and climate,” House Speaker Nancy PelosiD-Calif. said that the legislation was given by Democrat Alicia Sullivan in a note to her colleagues. She said the measure “will make a significant difference in the lives of millions of Americans.”
A first batch of key figures was released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. It showed that projections were closely matching previous estimates from President Obama. This included tax credits for clean energy development as well as child care assistance. It also provided tax breaks that extended tax relief to millions of lower-earning people, children with kids, and private insurance buyers.
It would give $109 billion for free preschool to 3- and 4-year olds. The measure included large amounts for senior home care, Medicare coverage for the hearing impaired and new requirements for paid family time for up to four weeks. The family leave program, however, was expected to be removed in the Senate, where it’s been opposed by Manchin.
CBO predicted that $207 billion of new revenue would be collected by the IRS if the IRS spent $80billion to improve IRS tax enforcement. That meant net savings of $127 billion, well below the White House’s more optimistic $400 billion estimate.
CBO officially estimated that legislation would increase federal deficits by $367 million over the next decade, in a scoring quirk. The agency’s budget guidelines technically require it to not count IRS savings when measuring a bill’s deficit impact. But it acknowledged that the measure’s true impact would produce added shortfalls of the lower figure — $160 billion — when counting added revenue the IRS would collect.
Biden and other Democratic leaders stated the measure would be financially sustainable, in large part through higher taxes on big companies, the wealthy and foreign-based businesses.
Republicans said that legislation would cause economic damage to an already infected economy and give tax breaks only to some very wealthy taxpayers. They also claimed it would make the government more intrusive and larger. Missouri Rep. Jason Smith, the Budget Committee’s top Republican, echoed the alliteration from “Build Back Better” to mock it.
“Bankrupts the economy. It benefits the rich. And it builds the Washington machine,” Smith said.
Two weeks after centrists’ objections forced Democrats to delay the measure, the party’s divisions seemed all but resolved, for now. Democrats face a uniform Republican opposition and can only lose three votes to be victorious in the House.
In a significant sign of movement, Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a leading House centrist, said she would back the measure after the latest budget figures persuaded her the legislation “is fiscally disciplined. Despite its flaws, the Build Back Better Act has a lot of positive elements.”
Biden This Week signed a $1 trillion package of highway and other infrastructure projects, which he’s spent recent days promoting around the country. But he’s been battered recently by falling approval numbers in polls, reflecting voters’ concerns over inflation, supply chain delaysThe persistent coronavirus pandemic.
The Democrats seemed eager to close the deal after months of negotiations, putting aside any lingering disagreements to sell it back to their home country. House Democrats said they were planning 1,000 events across the country by year’s end to pitch the measure’s benefits to voters. The midterm elections of 2022 will be held in which Republicans are expected to capture control of both the Senate and House.
The House’s passage of the Social and Environment Bill would move it to the Senate 50-50, where Democrats are down to zero votes. That’s given enormous leverage to Manchin.
Talks between the Senate and House could drag out for weeks. The possibility that Manchin or other legislators will make further changes to the measure made it easy for House moderates Thursday to vote in favor of the legislation. The altered bill would have to return to the House before going to Biden’s desk.
When moderates delayed House passage of the bill two weeks ago, they said they wanted to make sure the CBO’s projections for its costs were similar to White House numbers, which showed the measure essentially paid for itself.
However, moderates stated that the projections of IRS savings are never certain and wouldn’t cause them to vote against it. Others said the measure’s roughly $555 billion in tax credits and other costs to encourage cleaner energy need not be paid for in the bill because global warming is an existential crisis.
CBO calculated that the language used to curb prescription drug cost would help save $297B over the next 10 years. The savings would come from new constraints on pharmaceutical companies’ pricing, but also by blocking a rule on drug company rebates that was initiated by President Donald Trump but never took effect.
This bill would allow millions of illegal immigrants to be granted work permits by the government, which would permit them to temporarily stay in the U.S. It was expected that this provision would be modified or removed by the Senate. Senate rules limit what budget bills can allow.
The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which preaches fiscal constraint, estimated that the bill’s overall cost would be nearly $5 trillion if Democrats hadn’t made some of its programs temporary. Tax credits for low-earning and children, which are top priorities of the party, have been extended only for one year. This makes their prices appear to be lower even though they would prefer that those programs remain permanent.
Report by Farnoush Almiri and Lisa Mascaro (AP Congressional Correspondent)