By Laura Olson, Jacob Fischler and Ariana Figueroa
WASHINGTON — U.S. House Democrats united around a landmark $1.85 trillion social spending and climate bill on Friday, sending the major plank of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda to the Senate.
Democratic leaders in the House heralded the 220-213 near party-line vote on the so-called Build Back Better bill, touting its provisions on child care, education, health care, taxes and the environment as monumental policy advances—though they are expected to be revised or removed to gain support from Democratic moderates in the Senate.
The lone House Democratic holdout was Maine’s Rep. Jared Golden.
In a statement, Biden touted the bill’s provisions on prescription drugs, universal child care, taxes and climate action.
“Above all, it puts us on the path to build our economy back better than before by rebuilding the backbone of America: working people and the middle class,” he said.
The bill now heads to the Senate, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said it would be considered as soon as the parliamentarian has reviewed the bill.
But Democrats’ triumphant moment on the eve of the Thanksgiving Day recess was delayed by an all-night filibuster-style speech by House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who took the floor at 8:38 p.m. Thursday and spoke until 5:10 a.m. McCarthy railed against the cost of the legislation, President Joe Biden, inflation, and China, and veered into topics such as baby carrots, swimming competitions and the dollar menu at McDonald’s.
As a House leader, McCarthy was allowed to speak as long as he wanted—and his eight hours and 32 minutes beat an eight-hour record set by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2018 advocating for immigration reform.
He told Democrats that he had “all night,” to which Democrats responded, “so do we.”
Walking into the U.S. Capitol early Friday morning, Pelosi said she had “no idea” what McCarthy achieved with his filibuster-style speech, according to Capitol Hill pool reports.
“With the passage of the Build Back Better act, we, the Democratic Congress, are taking our place in the long and honorable heritage of our democracy with legislation that will be the pillar of health and financial security in America,” Pelosi said on the House floor shortly before lawmakers voted. As the final tally was announced, Democrats cheered and applauded.
They huddled around Pelosi, chanting her name and clapping.
Friday’s win for House Democrats followed months of intense negotiations with the White House and Senate, infighting between progressive and moderate Democrats and a dramatic scaling back of an even more sprawling social safety net plan from Biden earlier this year. But they finally coalesced.
“For decades, Congress has based economic policy on trickle-down economics, eviscerating America’s middle class in the process. But today we reject that approach,” said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, (D-Pa.).
She described the bill as “investing in American families, not hedge funds, in ways that will benefit all of us.”
The legislation was held up two weeks ago when moderates insisted on seeing detailed impartial cost estimates for the legislation from the Congressional Budget Office before they could vote in favor of it.
But by Thursday, almost all the moderates had fallen in line, including Reps. Stephanie Murphy of Florida, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia.
Golden, though, voted no, objecting to a provision that gives a tax break to high-earners in high-tax states.
The legislation now faces a tough and lengthy path — and some likely changes — in the evenly divided Senate, where Democrats will need every vote in their caucus for the measure to reach Biden’s desk.
The Senate will use a legislative procedure known as budget reconciliation, which allows Democrats to bypass the Senate’s normal 60-vote threshold and pass the measure without any Republican support.
Moderate Sens. Joe Manchin III, (D-W.Va.), and Kyrsten Sinema, (D-Ariz.), are expected to have an outsized influence on which provisions remain in the final bill. Both were heavily involved in months of negotiations that cut the measure’s initial $3.5 trillion price tag over 10 years in half.
If congressional Democrats can successfully clear the measure through both chambers, it would give them a second major legislative win after the $1.2 trillion infrastructure measure signed into law this week. Read more