Climate Action: House Democrats pass Build Back Better Act with zero GOP votes
Democrats broke out into applause and celebratory chants on the House floor Friday after the chamber passed its version of the Build Back Better Act, a $1.75 trillion package that includes hundreds of billions in funding for climate action, child care, housing, and other longstanding priorities.
The legislation’s passage came after months of arduous negotiations that saw right-wing Democrats shave nearly $2 trillion off the bill’s top line and remove key components, including vision and dental benefits for Medicare, tuition-free community college, the Clean Energy Performance Program, and other measures that were in the original $3.5 trillion framework.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement that “while this version of the bill isn’t everything we want or that our communities deserve, we recognize that this transformative piece of legislation was developed with the slimmest of margins in the House and Senate, and under the strict rules of budget reconciliation.”
“This legislation will deliver real, long-overdue, and urgently needed results to working people, and it
begins to level the playing field so that corporations and the wealthiest Americans finally pay their fair share in taxes,” said Jayapal. “Our work will not stop until the Build Back Better Act passes the Senate without any weakening of these popular provisions. We call on the Senate to quickly pass this bill and send it to the President’s desk as soon as possible. It’s time to deliver.”
The final vote on the measure was 220-213, with just one Democrat—Rep. Jared Golden of Maine—joining every Republican in voting no.
House Democrats celebrate as the $1.75T Build Back Better Act passes the House 220-213. pic.twitter.com/56puVYdOFf
— The Recount (@therecount) November 19, 2021
As it stands, the Build Back Better Act includes $555 billion for climate action, $400 billion for affordable child care and early childhood education, an extension of the boosted child tax credit, and hearing benefits for Medicare.
The legislation also contains a compromise plan to lower prescription drug prices, an increase in Internal Revenue Service funding to help the agency crack down on rich tax cheats, and a 15% corporate minimum tax that would hit large companies such as Amazon, Google, and Verizon.
“This is a big day for workers, families, caregivers, and communities across the country who just moved one step closer to seeing the benefits of strong public investments that will improve their lives, expand economic opportunities, and build a healthy, thriving economy for all of us,” said Claire Guzdar, a spokesperson for ProsperUS, a coalition of grassroots progressive groups.
While House Democrats and outside activists hailed the lower chamber’s vote as a major step, much remains to be done before the bill can reach President Joe Biden’s desk for a signature.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has repeatedly threatened to tank the entire package, is expected to strip a paid leave program from the bill in the upper chamber, meaning the House will have to approve an adjusted bill.
The legislation will also face scrutiny from the unelected Senate parliamentarian, who is set to hand down opinions on whether Democrats’ plan to lower drug prices and other provisions comply with budget reconciliation rules.
Sondra Youdelman, campaigns director at People’s Action, said in a statement following the House vote that “it’s the Senate’s turn to keep their end of the bargain.”
“There is no time to waste for the millions of people who put Democrats in office and expect us to fight for them,” said Youdelman. “President Biden and Majority Leader Schumer must ensure that Democrats pass the Build Back Better Act—without further cuts—immediately. This will be Democrats’ legacy going into the 2022 midterms. We need to protect it.”
The Sunrise Movement’s Varshini Prakash added that “progressives have made enough compromises” and called on the Senate to “pass the damn bill.”
“We’ve fought hard to defend the president’s popular agenda, while Democratic leadership allowed fossil-fuel-funded Senators Manchin and [Kyrsten] Sinema to water this bill down from its original, transformative promise,” said Prakash. “President Biden and Senator Schumer must get their party in line, not cower to corporate Democrats, and pass the full Build Back Better Act through the Senate immediately. There are no excuses left.”