UPDATED, 6:27 AM: The House passed the Build Back Better Act after a marathon session, sending the roughly $1.9 trillion legislation to the Senate.
The vote was 220-213. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the vote after a sometimes raucous voting session, with some members shouting “Nancy!” after its passage. One Democrat, Jared Golden of Maine, joined all Republicans against it.
Democrats erupted in applause as the vote count passed 218, enough for passage. Pelosi was surrounded by members and they cheered her and gave each other hugs.
.@SpeakerPelosi: "The Build Back Better Bill is passed."
— CSPAN (@cspan) November 19, 2021
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said that he wants to have passage of the bill by Christmas. It would then have to go back to the House for a final vote, given that Senate Democrats are expected to make changes to the legislation as negotiations continue with two members of their caucus, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who have yet to give it their support. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a leader on the progressive side of the caucus, also has indicated that he would like to see changes.
But the advancement of the legislation is a victory for President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats, as it moves forward a key part of their agenda with a narrow majority. The Build Back Better Act would expand the social safety net and provide hundreds of billions to fight climate change.
Pelosi has previously shepherded major bill like the Affordable Care Act and Covid-19 relief, but told reporters that Build Back Better was a particularly significant achievement. She said the bill was “monumental” and “historic” and “bigger than anything we have ever done.”
A provision of the legislation will provide tax credits to local broadcast, print and online outlets for employing journalists, an effort to shore up the dire state of the news business in smaller and medium sized communities.
Gordon Smith, the president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, said in a statement that the provision “will provide meaningful incentives for local broadcast stations to hire and retain the newsgatherers who keep our communities informed, connected and engaged. Local broadcast news is consistently ranked among the most trusted sources of news and information, and this bill would allow radio and television stations to employ additional journalists to report on the events, issues and emergencies affecting our nation.”
UPDATE, 5:35 AM PT: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy set a record for longest speech on the floor of the House, as he finished up his remarks early on Friday after speaking for eight hours and 32 minutes.
“This evening showed that no matter the time, the day or the circumstances, House Republicans will always fight for you, fight for your family and fight for our country,” McCarthy said at about 5:10 AM ET/2:10 AM PT.
McCarthy is in line for speaker should Republicans take the House next year — a very real possibility. But his speech, an attack on Democrats’ social agenda, also could be seen as a way to unify his caucus and show his leadership amid grumblings that some in the caucus would favor someone else. Earlier on Thursday came news that Mark Meadows, Donald Trump’s former chief of staff, said on a podcast that he would like to see the former president become speaker. Although highly unusual, a speaker does not have to be a member of Congress.
The current speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said on Friday morning that a vote on the Build Back Better Act would proceed. After McCarthy’s marathon remarks, she said, “With respect for those who work in this Capitol and as a courtesy to my colleagues, I will be brief.”
McCarthy’s speech also had the effect of delaying a vote until Friday morning, rather than overnight, when so much major legislation gets passed after hours of debate.
PREVIOUSLY: The House of Representatives was poised to vote on the Build Back Better Act, the $1.9 trillion social spending and climate package that is a centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s agenda.
The vote, however, was delayed on Thursday as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, leading the Republican opposition, delivered a speech from the floor that went for more than six hours. He blasted the Democrats for reckless spending, as he used his filibuster-like opportunity as an attack on the White House in general.
“America has had enough,” he said, as he meandered from topic to topic, ranging from the southern border to hypersonic technology to the movie Red Dawn.
But Democrats said that they were on the verge of passing badly needed legislation that will expand the social safety in ways that will boost productivity and give a badly needed lifeline to working families.
“We simply cannot go back to the way things were before the pandemic,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
The legislation includes funding for universal pre-K and subsidies for child care, along with an extension of the child tax credit and four weeks of paid family and medical leave. It would expand Medicare to cover hearing benefits, extend Medicaid coverage to four million people, lower prescription drug costs and reduce premiums in the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. It also includes hundreds of billions to combat climate change, with an expansion of tax credits for home solar and clean energy, and other provisions to cut the cost of electric vehicles. An immigration provision would give protection to millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Read the bill’s cost breakdown from the Congressional Budget Office here.
Of particular interest to the media business is the inclusion of a tax credit for local broadcast, print and online news outlets to employ journalists. It would provide a credit up to $25,000 to defray employment taxes in the first year, and $15,000 in the next four years, for each employee. That would cover 50% of compensation up to $50,000 in the first year and 30% in the next four years.
The bill would be paid for via a surtax on the wealthiest Americans, as well as as 15% minimum tax on corporations that report at least $1 billion in profits to shareholders. The legislation would offer some relief to taxpayers who live in states and cities with high taxes, as it would increase the maximum tax deduction on state and local income taxes to $80,000, from the current $10,000.
The House’s ability to move forward on the bill hinged on the release of a Congressional Budget Office estimate of the legislation’s impact on the deficit. Moderates had demanded that a vote be put off until the CBO analysis was released. It showed that the bill would increase the deficit by $367 billion over a ten year period. But that figure does not include another aspect of the legislation: Increasing IRS enforcement. The Treasury estimates that it would raise $400 billion in additional revenue, but the CBO analysis is lower than that.
The legislation is expected to pass along party lines, and even if its does, it may be pared down after it moves to the Senate. It’s likely no Republican senator will support the bill, leaving Democrats with no votes to spare. Two Democrats, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), have balked at aspects of the legislation and have yet to give it their support. Among the provisions in doubt are ones for paid family and medical leave, as well as immigration.
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