As expected, the House of Representatives passed President Joe Biden’s $1.85 trillion Build Back Better Act (BBB) on Friday, sending the measure to the Senate, where major hurdles could significantly change, or even halt, the legislation.
The vote follows a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure measure signed into law this week.
Biden’s BBB bill will add millions of new immigrants to the U.S. population in the first 10 years, on top of an amnesty for roughly 6.5 million people, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
“About 6.5 million aliens (non-U.S. nationals) would receive parole,” say the notes to the CBO’s $121.7 billion cost estimate.
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican, stalled the inevitable passage for more than eight hours, slamming the legislation and entire Democratic agenda.
The massive spending bill, which started at $3.5T, was cut nearly in half in cost and size in order to win over party centrists.
Despite the changes, House Democrats celebrated the measure as transformative and critical to helping working-class families struggling with the high cost of living.
The Build Back Better Act would provide free preschool, funds for families to take care of the elderly or disabled, and controversial paid family leave. It would also extend the enlarged child tax credit and expand subsidies for health insurance policies through Obamacare.
The bill also includes the Green New Deal agenda including significant tax credits for clean energy, limiting carbon emissions.
“The name refers to the broad recognition that too many Americans are just barely getting by in our economy, and we simply cannot go back to the way things were before the pandemic,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat. “This bill is truly for the people.”
Still, Democrats face a number of challenges in getting the bill through the Senate.
The Senate parliamentarian must complete an analysis of the House-passed bill to ensure it conforms to the rules of a budgetary tactic Senate Democrats plan to use to pass the legislation with 51 votes instead of the usual 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
The House measure includes a provision that would help millions of illegal workers remain in the United States even though the Senate parliamentarian has rejected other efforts to add immigration policy to the bill.
The bill must also meet the approval of skeptical centrist Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
Manchin told reporters this week he’s worried the high cost of the bill will prolong or worsen inflation that is hitting his constituents hard. He’s also opposed to the paid leave provision in the House bill, arguing the country cannot afford a new entitlement when Social Security and Medicare are on shaky financial footing.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters he plans to bring up the bill before Christmas.
If the Senate makes changes, the House will have to take up the Senate-passed bill and accept the modifications that are likely to rankle liberals.
The bill includes new tax increases and tax enforcement through 80,000 new IRS agents that will bring in revenue to pay for some of the measure.
Republicans unanimously voted against the bill and railed against the measure during a brief floor debate ahead of the final vote, arguing the measure is irresponsible and out of touch with a nation concerned with inflation that economists warn will get worse with additional federal spending.
The bill lifts a $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions, a change that will disproportionately benefit wealthy taxpayers in blue states.
Republicans pointed out the measure also includes a methane fee, which they said will raise the cost of natural gas.
“Everyone who heats their homes with natural gas this winter are going to pay 30% more,” said Minority Whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican. “And for what? To give tax breaks to millionaires in five states.”