House Passes $1.85 Trillion Budget Bill, Sending It to the Senate

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The House voted 220–213 to pass Democrats’ $1.85 trillion Build Back Better Budget bill on Friday, sending the bill to the Senate after months of delays and infighting.

Though the passage finally puts an end to months of drama in the House, however, the bill will now have to face an even tougher challenge in the Senate, where defection by a single Democrat could kill the bill.

Republicans were far from happy with the bill’s passage after months of fighting the proposal, which they consider too pricey and economically dangerous.

Giving her vote on the House floor, one Republican congresswoman said that she was emphatically voting “Hell no” on the “Build Back Broke” bill.

Following the bill’s passage, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) took to Twitter to decry the legislation.

“I oppose Democrats’ reckless tax & spending spree that just passed the House,” Grassley wrote. “It’s wrong for America to spend $1.9 TRILLION on social spending when inflation is at a 30 year high. The Senate should throw [this] partisan bill into the garbage & do drug pricing, paid family leave etc in a bipartisan way.”

Republicans have been opposed to the legislation since its inception, and voted against the bill unanimously.

Democrats voted for the bill almost unanimously and were radiant at the bill’s long-delayed passage in the House.

After the bill met the threshold to pass, Democrats congregated together on one side of the House floor, whooping, clapping, and cheering at the bill’s passage.

“This is why we even run and serve in Congress,” progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) told reporters outside the House chamber, “to pass legislation like this that impacts people’s everyday lives to transform our material reality.”

But one member, Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine), a staunch moderate in the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, voted with Republicans against the bill.

Earlier in the year, Golden joined a group of nine (later ten) moderates in demanding that the partisan budget bill be de-linked from the infrastructure bill, which the moderates called “a bipartisan victory for our nation.” This demand led to a months-long clash between moderates and progressives that even President Joe Biden’s intervention could not solve.

Progressives, who make up nearly half of the House Democratic Caucus, have long been open with their distrust for moderates. House progressives, thinking that moderates would tank the bill if the moderate-preferred $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill was passed first, said that they would not vote for the infrastructure bill without first passing the budget bill.

Originally, both the budget and infrastructure bills were slated for a vote on Sept. 27. However, moderates refused to relent in their demands that the budget and infrastructure bills be considered separately, the first sign of trouble for Democrat leadership.

An eleventh-hour intervention by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) helped to advance the budget bill on Sept. 27, but division within the caucus continued.

Over the next month and a half, several leadership-proffered deadlines came and went with no movement on either bill.

Even two visits by the president could not mend this gap, causing leaders and rank-and-file members to grow increasingly frustrated.

While most moderates and progressives said they were willing to vote for the bill in theory, specifics on the cost and types of programs that should be in the bill were extremely divisive.

Around the middle of November, Democrats tried to pass the bill through the House before the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) gave the bill a score detailing its effects on the federal deficit and national debt.

But moderates demanded that this score be given before they would vote for the bill. Democrat leaders reluctantly accepted this demand, pushing the vote on the bill off until the scoring information was released.

Released Thursday evening, the CBO estimated that the bill would add $367 billion to the federal deficit, despite the claims of Democrats that the bill would cost nothing and would be paid for by increasing the tax rate on the wealthy.

However, most of Democrats’ problems came from the Senate.

In the House, Democrats could spare as many as three defections. In the Senate, however, where Democrats hold the thinnest-possible 51 vote majority (including the tie-breaking vote of the Vice President), Democrats have no margin for error.

In the thinly-held upper chamber, most Democrats were on board with the legislation. But two moderates, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have held out against the bill for months.

For both senators, the bill’s original $3.5 trillion price tag was too high to accept.

The duo constantly met with the president, causing one Democrat lawmaker to quip that “[Manchin and Sinema] have a permanent parking spot at the White House.”

But despite Biden’s efforts to sway the two in favor of the larger bill, the bill’s price tag was eventually sliced in about half from $3.5 trillion to $1.85 trillion.

This compromise bill angered progressives, who considered the $3.5 trillion bill to already be a steep compromise. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) original draft of the bill cost $6 trillion.

Still, progressives finally accepted the bill. However, Manchin and Sinema have refused to make the same commitment. Manchin has been especially open with his criticism of the bill, noting the negative effects the bill could have on the federal deficit, national debt, and inflation.

Now that the CBO’s estimate of the effect the bill will have on the deficit is published, Manchin and Sinema may remain hesitant to pass the bill, setting the stage for another battle in the Senate.

By Joseph Lord

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