Finally – Democrats get Build Back Better bill through the House

Dems in delegation tout benefits for Nevadans, urge Senate not to mess it up

By: , and - November 19, 2021 8:33 am

Nevada incumbent Democratic U.S. Reps. Susie Lee, Steven Horsford and Dina Titus. (Lee photo by by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; Horsford photo by Ariana Figueroa/States Newsroom; Titus photo, Nevada Current file)

WASHINGTON — Lower prescription drug costs. Expansion of the child tax credit through 2022. Access to affordable child care. Universal preschool for every three- and four-year old. Tax cuts for low-income workers, and tax hikes for corporations and billionaires. The largest federal ever single investment to confront the impacts of climate change.

Those were just some of the provisions Nevada Democrats in the House of Representatives, Dina Titus, Susie Lee and Steven Horsford, highlighted in statements following Friday morning’s passage of the Build Back Better bill.

Nevada’s sole Republican in the House, Mark Amodei voted against the bill, which passed on a 220-213 near party-line vote.

Nevada’s House Democrats, along with virtually every Democrat in Washington, also urged the Senate to swiftly pass the legislation. 

But the provisions included in the House expected to be revised or removed to gain support from Democratic moderates in the Senate. 

McCarthy’s last stand

Democrats’ triumphant moment on the eve of the Thanksgiving Day recess was delayed by an all-night filibuster-style speech by House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who took the floor at 8:38 p.m. Thursday and spoke until 5:10 a.m. McCarthy railed against the cost of the legislation, President Joe Biden, inflation, and China, and veered into topics such as baby carrots, swimming competitions and the dollar menu at McDonald’s. 

As a House leader, McCarthy was allowed to speak as long as he wanted—and his eight hours and 32 minutes beat an eight-hour record set by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2018 advocating for immigration reform.

He told Democrats that he had “all night,” to which Democrats responded, “so do we.”

Walking into the U.S. Capitol early Friday morning, Pelosi said she had “no idea” what McCarthy achieved with his filibuster-style speech, according to Capitol Hill pool reports. 

“With the passage of the Build Back Better act, we, the Democratic Congress, are taking our place in the long and honorable heritage of our democracy with legislation that will be the pillar of health and financial security in America,” Pelosi said on the House floor shortly before lawmakers voted. As the final tally was announced, Democrats cheered and applauded.

They huddled around Pelosi, chanting her name and clapping. 

Friday’s win for House Democrats followed months of intense negotiations with the White House and Senate, infighting between progressive and moderate Democrats and a dramatic scaling back of an even more sprawling social safety net plan from Biden earlier this year. But they finally coalesced.

The legislation was held up two weeks ago when moderates insisted on seeing detailed impartial cost estimates for the legislation from the Congressional Budget Office before they could vote in favor of it.

But by Thursday, almost all the moderates had fallen in line.

The legislation now faces a tough and lengthy path — and some likely changes — in the evenly divided Senate, where Democrats will need every vote in their caucus for the measure to reach Biden’s desk.

The Senate will use a legislative procedure known as budget reconciliation, which allows Democrats to bypass the Senate’s normal 60-vote threshold and pass the measure without any Republican support.

Moderate Sens. Joe Manchin, (D-W.Va.), and Kyrsten Sinema, (D-Ariz.), are expected to have an outsized influence on which provisions remain in the final bill. Both were heavily involved in months of negotiations that cut the measure’s initial $3.5 trillion price tag over 10 years in half.

If congressional Democrats can successfully clear the measure through both chambers, it would give them a second major legislative win after the $1.2 trillion infrastructure measure signed into law this week.

Deficits and SALT

The Biden administration has argued the bill will pay for itself through tax increases on the wealthy, big corporations and companies doing business abroad.

An analysis from the Congressional Budget Office released Thursday night projected that the bill would add $367 billion to the deficit over a decade. 

The bill would remove the cap on federal deductions taxpayers can take for what they pay in state and local taxes, essentially a tax cut for the wealthy in high-tax states including New Jersey and Maryland—drawing opposition from Maine Rep. Jared Golden, who was the only Democrat to vote against the bill.

The CBO deficit estimate doesn’t account for possible revenue from increased IRS enforcement, which CBO analysts projected at $207 billion in savings and the Treasury has said could save some $400 billion. 

Child care, universal pre-K

Among the bill’s sweeping policy provisions are significant changes to how parents pay for child care. 

It allocates $400 billion to pay for universal pre-K for 3-and-4 year-olds, and would provide subsidies to limit how much of a family’s income goes toward daycare costs for younger children. 

It also expands the child tax credit so that parents could get a maximum of $3,600 per child under 6, for another year. Under the 2021 tax credit, parents can get up to $300 a month per child age 6 and under and $250 per child ages 6 to 17.

For new parents and other caregivers, Build Back Better includes four weeks of paid leave — a scaled-down provision that’s unlikely to survive in the Senate due to objections from Manchin.

On health care, it would for the first time give Medicare the ability to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on the price of some prescription drugs, and offer coverage of hearing aids for seniors.

It also would address the insurance coverage gap for those living in states that refused to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, by offering tax credits for premium-free health coverage on the Obamacare health exchanges through 2025.

Confronting climate crisis

Progressive Democrats and environmental groups consider the bill a much stronger climate measure than the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law. 

Even as the bill’s topline price tag was halved, most of the climate spending remained. The White House has said the measure includes $555 billion in climate spending and tax credits. 

The largest category of climate action in the bill is $320 billion in new and extended clean energy tax credits.

The bill would provide a consumer tax credit for electric vehicles. Emissions from transportation make up nearly one-quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., the largest of any single sector.

The bill also includes funding for a new climate conservation corps program that would create entry-level jobs in conservation and climate resiliency work.

It would also impose a fee on emissions from methane, one of the most powerful greenhouse gases. Methane is largely a byproduct of oil and gas development, agriculture and landfills. 

The bill is likely to cut more than a gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions, Robbie Orvis, the senior director of energy policy design at the nonprofit think tank Energy Innovation, said in an interview last month. The United States must cut 2 gigatons of emissions to reach its commitment under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Immigration attempts

Included in the $1.85 trillion social package is $100 billion that the Biden administration set aside for immigration policy that would help reduce backlogs, expand legal representation and help with processing at the border. 

Democrats have tried to include a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented people through the reconciliation package, but were blocked by the Senate parliamentarian from including those provisions.

Immigration advocates also spent this week lobbying Congress to include basic work permits for undocumented essential workers, as well as protections from deportations.

Delegation touts benefits for Nevadans

The offices of Nevada’s House Democrats hit send on their statements Friday morning almost immediately after McCarthy finally sat down and the bill was passed.

“This is our opportunity to take transformational action to address the challenges facing Americans, our economy, and our planet,” said Rep. Dina Titus. “Struggling families cannot wait for assistance. Our threatened planet cannot wait. I urge the Senate to pass this legislation so that we can send it to President Biden’s desk before it’s too late.”

Access to affordable child care was one of the several direct benefits for Nevadans specifically highlighted in the statement from Titus’s office. The legislation “will enable Nevada to provide access to child care for 196,800 young children (ages 0-5) per year from families earning under 2.5 times the state median income (about $196,846 for a family of 4), and ensure these families pay no more than 7% of their income on high-quality child care,” the statement said.

“Nevadans sent me to Congress to deliver lower costs for prescription drugs, affordable health care and child care, tax breaks for the middle class, and policies that will fight this climate crisis with the urgency that it demands,” said Rep. Susie Lee.

In addition to prescription drug negotiation provision, the statement from Lee’s office also highlighted Medicaid and Medicare reforms. The Build Back Better bill as passed by the House “will close the Medicaid coverage gap to help millions of Americans gain health insurance, extend through 2025 the American Rescue Plan’s health insurance premium reductions for those who buy coverage on their own, and help older Americans access affordable hearing care by expanding Medicare.” Lee’s office estimates 71,000 uninsured Nevadans will gain coverage, and more than 47,000 “will on average save hundreds of dollars per year.”

“Together with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, this legislation will create millions of good-paying union jobs, cut taxes for most Nevada families with children, and lower costs on essentials like housing, health care, and child care,” Rep. Steven Horsford said in his statement.

Among the provisions featured in the statement from Horfsord’s office was the provision extending the expanded child tax credit program, which established monthly direct payments for most families with children. Currently set to expire at the end of this year, the House version of the Build Back Better bill extends it through 2022. 

Horsford’s statement noted that since July, the tax credit “has pumped more than $600 million into Nevada’s economy, with an average per-household payment of $434. In Nevada’s Fourth District, 97 percent of families are eligible for this key tax cut.”

The Nevada Current staff contributed to this story.

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Laura Olson
Laura Olson

Laura covers the nation's capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit outlets that includes Nevada Current. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections, and campaign finance.

Jacob Fischler
Jacob Fischler

Jacob covers federal policy as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Based in Oregon, he focuses on Western issues. His coverage areas include climate, energy development, public lands and infrastructure.

Ariana Figueroa
Ariana Figueroa

Ariana covers the nation's capital for States Newsroom. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections and campaign finance.