It took 10 months, 16 days, and an eight-and-a-half-hour speech from GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy but House Democrats finally passed their $1.75 trillion social welfare spending bill Friday morning.
By a vote of 220-213, Democrats passed the bill with just one Democrat joining all Republicans in opposition to the “Build Back Better” legislation: Rep. Jared Golden of Maine.
It was a victory on multiple levels for Democrats, most notably on a policy note. The bill would provide $550 billion for climate change, $400 billion for child care and universal preschool, $150 billion each for affordable housing and Medicaid’s home-care program, expanded child tax credits, and expanded Medicare provisions and subsidies, among other priorities.
But the victory was made sweeter on a personal level, after McCarthy’s antics late Thursday night and early Friday morning.
The California Republican was able to delay the vote by taking advantage of the so-called “Magic Minute”—a courtesy extended to the leaders of both parties that allow them to speak for as long as they want with it only counting as one minute toward the allotted time for debate.
By the time McCarthy ended at 5:10 a.m., all but a handful of Republicans who sat behind McCarthy as a C-SPAN backdrop had departed the Capitol. Democrats swiftly recessed and gaveled back in at 8 a.m. on Friday.
At that point, members continued their few final minutes of debate and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) took her turn at the podium. She quipped at the start of her remarks, “With respect to those who work in this Capitol and as a courtesy to my colleagues, I will be brief.”
And she was.
Pelosi spoke for just over 10 minutes, hitting on the usual Democratic talking points about the substance of the bill and suggesting the legislation will be a “pillar of health and financial security in America.”
Upon conclusion of her speech, Republicans pulled out one last stop: A motion to recommit the bill to committee, which failed by a 208-220 vote. And then passage of the bill was swift.
Instead of passing the bill late Thursday night, all that McCarthy accomplished was pushing the vote to the daylight hours of Friday morning.
House passage now offloads the BBB burden to the Senate, where time will tell whether Democratic problem children Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and Joe Manchin (WV) are ready to push the measure through. Any changes to the bill in the upper chamber, including a likely removal of paid leave provisions, would send the BBB back to the House in a game of legislative ping pong.
But that’s if the bill can ever pass the Senate. Manchin and Sinema have yet to sign on, even with a topline cost that largely hews to their demands.
The Congressional Budget Office said Thursday in a preliminary analysis that the bill would cost $367 billion over 10 years, but they didn’t add in a key offset to the legislation. They said increased IRS enforcement would bring in an additional $207 billion over the next decade, bringing the total cost to $160 billion—and that’s with an estimate that the White House believes is overly pessimistic.
The Biden administration thinks increased IRS enforcement—essentially making people pay their taxes—would bring in $400 billion. That means that some Democrats actually believe the $1.75 trillion bill would ultimately have a positive budgetary impact on the debt. Or, at least, a minimal cost.
Democrats accomplish offsetting the new provisions by implementing a number of new corporate taxes. There’s a 15 percent minimum tax for large corporations, a 1 percent tax on corporate stock buybacks, a new tax on income above $10 million and $25 million, and new limits on what deductions businesses can take for losses—among other corporate tax law changes.
But for Republicans, the cost of the bill was simply unacceptable.
Even before McCarthy’s eight-and-a-half-hour rant, GOP lawmakers made it clear they thought the bill spent recklessly and without consideration for future generations.
Still, Democrats were more than happy to pass the bill and give themselves a long list of accomplishments to run on in 2022, including popular provisions like capping monthly insulin costs at $35 a month.
As the end of the vote neared, Democrats rallied near the front of the chamber, cheering and applauding the tally. Republicans, meanwhile, insisted on order in the chamber to announce proxy votes for colleagues who hadn’t shown up to the House floor Friday morning.
One of the Republicans insisting on quiet was Rep. Kat Cammack of Florida. She announced that she and other Republicans would be voting “Hell no" on the "Build Back Broke" legislation and she offered Democrats an ominous sign-off.
“Good luck in the Senate,” she said.