The US House of Representatives on Thursday turned its attention to the sprawling spending package that would overhaul the country’s health care, education, climate, immigration and tax laws, hoping to advance the next piece of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda before the weekend.
Known as the Build Back Better Act, the measure aims to expand Medicare to include new hearing benefits, cut the cost of some prescription drugs, provide free pre-kindergarten for all American children, and invest new money to combat climate change.
It also proposes giving more aid to help low-income families in greatest need, and it covers spending through new taxes targeting millionaires and billionaires, along with multinational corporations, many of which currently pay nothing in federal taxes.
Democrats made a strategic blunder by failing to stress the popularity of items included in the president’s agenda instead of talking about the price tag on the vast spending bill.
Democrats also missed early opportunities to let the public know their measure is fully financed. An analysis from the Joint Committee of Taxation found the bill would raise roughly $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a rallying cry to her Democratic caucus, saying that they are on the verge of clinching a “spectacular vision for the future,” less than two weeks after the party helped finalize a second, separate effort to invest anew in the nation’s infrastructure. Biden signed that bipartisan package into law on Monday.
“It will create millions of good-paying jobs, lower families costs and cut their taxes, while making the wealthiest few and big corporations pay their fair share,” said Pelosi in a letter to congressional Democrats.
The timing of a final House vote on the Build Back Better Act is unclear as Democrats wait for the Congressional Budget Office to complete an analysis of its spending provisions, which corporate Democrats may use to derail the nearly $2 trillion in new programs financed by the legislation.
With infrastructure victory in hand, progressive Democrats worry their moderate colleagues will betray a promise to support the additional spending contained in the bill.
The CBO said that it could file a report by Friday, at the latest, and some Democrats are optimistic they could have it in hand sooner.
That could open the door for a swift series of votes as soon as Thursday that would send the tax-and-spending proposal to the Senate.
That chamber’s majority leader, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), has said he hopes to conclude consideration of the bill before Christmas.
“Virtually every poll on this piece of legislation has shown overwhelming support for each of the elements we are proposing,” said Rep. John Yarmuth, the leader of the chamber’s budget committee, which helped craft the legislation.
“When Donald Trump took office as president on Jan. 20 2017, the total national debt was $19,947,304,555,212.49, but American taxpayers owed $27,751,896,236,414.77 when he left the White House on Jan. 20 2021,” said Lisa McCormick, one of New Jersey’s leading progressive Democrats. “The Trump Jump was an $8 trillion mistake— or $7,804,591,681.20 to the penny. Politicians need to stop complaining about how much we spend and start making the richest people and corporations in the country contribute to the cost of government.”
McCormick said debt and economic decline are the direct results of “Reaganomics” or the policies that ensued from the time when President Ronald Reagan slashed top tax rates from 70 percent to 28 percent.
“For fifty years, Americans all benefitted from a system that fueled a large, prosperous and growing middle-class comprised of working people,” said McCormick. “The four decades since 1981 have resulted in astronomical debt, an infrastructure that is falling apart plus widespread and creeping poverty that has accompanied policy decision-making that is increasingly influenced by the wealthy, who bend the rules to their advantage, worsening poverty and economic inequality.”
“America must reverse Reaganomics and rebuild the American Dream with a set of fiscal and monetary policies that make our economic work for the many, not the few,” said McCormick.