FIFTH UPDATE, 9:37 PM PT: The House of Representatives passed a key part of Joe Biden’s agenda, a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, late tonight, following a long day of wrangling to bring the legislation to a vote.
The bill now goes to Biden’s desk for him to sign.
In the end, the legislation passed with a relatively comfortable margin, 228-206, with Democrats cheering and clapping when the tally passed 218, enough for passage, and then when the final vote was announced. Thirteen Republicans joined with 215 Democrats to pass the bill.
Their enthusiasm followed a long day in which there were doubts that Democratic leaders had secured enough support to bring it to the floor, amid a standoff between different wings of the part.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who along with Biden and other Democratic leaders worked throughout the day to secure a tenuous agreement between progressives and moderates to advance the bill, chatted with members as the vote unfolded. Six Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), voted against it.
The Senate approved the bill in August, by a vote of 69-30. But it has been stalled in the House since then, as Democrats worked to come to an agreement on the larger Build Back Better Act, which would expand the social safety net and provide hundreds of billions to fight climate change. After passing the infrastructure bill, the House voted to consider the Build Back Better Act, but delayed a final vote until later this month.
The infrastructure legislation provides tens of billions for revitalizing rail and public transportation, highways and freeways and water sources. Perhaps most important to the entertainment industry, now focused on a streaming future, is a $65 billion outlay to build out internet access throughout the country, whether in rural areas or via expanded subsidies for low-income users to afford service.
The legislation also includes other spending aimed at addressing climate change, as well as funding for a network of electric vehicle charging stations and upgrading electrical grids. About $550 billion in the $1.2 trillion package is new spending, with the remainder already allocated in past legislation.
That broadband spending includes $42.5 billion for states to build out internet infrastructure in areas with no service or slow speeds. Companies that receive funding would be required to offer low cost plans to low income households. Another $14.2 billion will go to extending internet subsidies — generally $30 per subscriber — for eligible families to afford service. Internet providers also will be required to provide consumers with uniform labels on their pricing and services, intended to make it easier for potential subscribers to decide which service to buy.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki wrote on Twitter, “Proof that delivering for the American people is worth all the painful sausage making. Clean drinking water for kids, broadband access, electric vehicles, biggest investment in public transit. It’s happening. And more to come.”
The plan is for the House to take up the Build Back Better Act the week of November 15, and it now hinges on whether moderates are satisfied by an Congressional Budget Office analysis of its impact. If the legislation passes the House, it would then go to the Senate, where it is expected to be changed considerably to secure support from all 50 members of the Democratic caucus.
FOURTH UPDATE, 7:20 PM PT: The expected vote is on hold again, as the House went into recess, presumably because Democrats have not yet shored up the vote to pass an infrastructure bill.
Meanwhile, a group of House moderate Democrats, holding out on casting a final vote for the Build Back Better Act tonight, released a statement committing to do so pending a Congressional Budget Office score. The group is led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ).
“We commit to voting for the Build Back Better Act, in its current form other than technical changes, as expeditiously as we receive fiscal information from the Congressional Budget Office — but in no event later than the week of November 15th — consistent with the toplines for revenues and investments in the ‘White House Preliminary Budget Estimate of the Build Back Better Act’ document presented to the Democratic Caucus on November 4, 2021 by the White House.”
The Congressional Progressive Caucus issued a statement confirming the pact. “As part of this agreement, at the request of the President, and to ensure we pass both bills through the House, progressives will advance the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the House rule on Build Back Better tonight.”
President Joe Biden canceled plans to travel to Rehoboth Beach, DE on Friday night to try to secure passage of the legislation.
Earlier, the atmosphere in the chamber got a bit raucous. After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave a speech calling the Build Back Better Act “one of the most significant legislative undertakings that any of us have ever been a part of,” Rep. Brian Mast (R-TX) got up and gave her a mocking standing ovation. You’ll get an Emmy for that one — either that or a Golden Globe!” he said.
Later, right after the recess started, Mast got in a shouting match with Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA). As Mast yelled at Carbajal that the legislation would mean hundreds of new IRS agents, Carbajal responded, “You’re an idiot.”
THIRD UPDATE, 6:08 PM PT: “Well, the whole day was a clusterf–k, right?” Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) told reporters of the past 24 hours, as votes on President Joe Biden’s agenda were scheduled then delayed amid Democratic infighting.
It’s still not entirely clear, but Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has again sent out word that votes are expected about 6:30 PM PT.
That came amid an apparent agreement in which moderates would give a written commitment to vote for the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act if the Congressional Budget Office analysis of the legislation confirms White House estimates of its neutral impact on the budget. That is not expected to happen until the week of Nov. 15. In turn, progressives would vote to pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package.
Pocan, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said that it feels “like we are in a really decent place to finish this off.”
He added, “I thought everyone was working very closely. I mean, rank and file members figured out how to get s— done.”
The caucus wanted assurances from moderates that they will support the Build Back Better Act after passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which is expected tonight. Reporters have staked out a Longworth Office Building room for hours as progressives huddled behind closed doors on strategy.
Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-CA), signaling some sort of agreement with moderates, told reporters after she exited the meeting, “We’re landing the plane.”
Biden has been calling members, urging them to vote tonight for the infrastructure bill, and for a rule to consider the Build Back Better Act. The latter is essentially the first step toward bringing the Build Back Better Act to the floor.
SECOND UPDATE, 1:19 PM PT: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sounded optimistic and was even beaming as she told reporters of the current plan to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure legislation on Friday, but merely holding a vote on whether to consider the Build Back Better Act, with final approval held off for the next couple of weeks.
A group of moderates want to wait until the Congressional Budget Office gives its assessment of the fiscal impact of the legislation, something that could take a week or more.
Asked whether the wrangling over the legislation made Democrats look like they can’t get out of their own way, Pelosi answered, “Welcome to my world.” She added that Democrats were not a “lockstep party.”
That was the case just moments later, as a vote on a procedural motion was kept open as Pelosi huddled with other Democratic leaders as a group of progressive lawmakers threatened not to back the infrastructure bill.
The effect as been a bit of a see saw — one plan to appease moderates generates pushback from progressives, and visa versa. Moderates want to wait for a CBO report before voting on Build Back Better; Progressives want to wait until Build Back Better advances before voting on bipartisan infrastructure.
On the floor of the House, lawmakers milled about, chatting among themselves as they waited to learn of the next steps. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) peered up at an electronic vote tally, displayed about the press gallery. One member slumped in his seat, getting a nap, and others started to get a bit punchy, laughing and shouting at Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) as he finally showed to cast his ballot on the procedural motion.
On the Republican side, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) chatted with colleagues — sans a mask. She already has been fined $48,000 for not wearing a face covering on the floor, as is required by House rules.
Democrats have just a slim majority, with no Republicans expected to vote for the Build Back Better Act, a mix of initiatives to expand the social safety net and combat climate change. Although some Republicans may vote for the infrastructure bill, which passed the Senate with bipartisan support, the numbers would likely not make up for the loss of Democrats unhappy with the current approach toward advancing the legislation.
UPDATE,12:30 PM PT: The House is now scheduled to vote on the infrastructure bill on Friday afternoon, and will take a preliminary vote to consider the Build Back Better Act.
Republicans hammered Democrats for a rather chaotic day, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sought to move the legislation forward.
PREVIOUSLY: President Joe Biden’s agenda may finally come to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives on Friday, with Democratic leaders planning for a vote on the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act and the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.
House Republicans started the day by moving for a procedural vote to adjourn, and it is expected to fail.
What’s still unclear is when, or if, the Build Back Better Act will come to a vote, after weeks of negotiations between the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic party. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced to members that votes were planned on the two bills, but did not provide specifics on timing.
But the procedural vote was held open for more than an hour, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was reportedly meeting with moderate members, an indication that she does not yet have the votes for the Build Back Better Act to pass. Those members have been insisting that they wait until the Congressional Budget Office returns with an assessment of the cost of the legislation.
Nevertheless, at the start of Friday’s session, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) predicted on the floor of the House that “today is going to be a bright day for America.”
The Build Back Better Act amasses a host of party priorities into one package, including universal pre-K, affordable housing construction, expansion of Medicaid and the extension of a child tax credit, among other initiatives. It also would provide a massive outlay to combat climate changes, with tax incentives and consumer rebates, forest conservation and the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps. The legislation also includes tax credits for local news outlets for the hiring of local journalists. That is expected to cost $1.67 billion over 10 years.
Even if it passes the House — and it would be by the narrowest of margins — the legislation would likely be changed significantly in the Senate, where Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have balked at the original size of the package. Manchin earlier this week said that he wanted more time to assess the bill’s impact on the deficit and inflation.
By contrast, if the infrastructure bill passes the House, it would go to Biden’s desk, as it already passed the Senate with bipartisan support. The legislation includes money for traditional projects like roads and bridges, as well as tens of billions to modernize public transit and airports. It also provides $65 billion to expand and upgrade broadband service, as well as an outlay to address climate change. The latter includes $7.5 billion to build a network of electric vehicle charging stations.
Negotiations over the Build Back Better Act continued throughout the day and into the evening on Thursday, with reports that it will include a provision of particular interest to lawmakers in states with high state and local income taxes.
The provision reportedly will raise the tax deduction allowed for state and local taxes to $80,000, from the $10,000, and run through 2030. The state and local tax deduction was rolled back by Republicans in their tax package in 2017, a move that ended up hurting House members in suburban districts in New York, New Jersey and California in the 2018 midterm elections.
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