The House just passed Biden’s make-or-break “Build Back Better” bill
Now it faces the wrath of the divided Senate.
Amidst chants of “build back better” from congressional Democrats on Friday morning, the House of Representatives narrowly passed the President Biden’s signature domestic policy bill, giving the president a much-needed boost for his stalled legislative agenda — and setting up a contentious showdown in the Senate.
By a final count of 220-213, the House passed the nearly $2 trillion initiative. The vote followed a record-breaking floor speech by Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, in which he delayed what was intended to be a Thursday evening vote by ranting for more than eight hours about baby carrots and Chinese generals and other grandstanding inanities. Ultimately, however, McCarthy’s stalling tactic only managed to push what would have been a late-evening affair into the light of day, with the bill’s final passage broadcast live on most major news channels. Only one Democrat — Maine Rep. Jared Golden — voted with all Republicans against the bill.
While pared down significantly from its initially robust $3 trillion proposal, the Build Back Better Act contains a suite of ambitious goals, including free universal preschool, lower premiums for Affordable Care Act enrollees, expanded Pell grants, and other overwhelmingly popular policies. It does not, however, contain several of Biden’s key promises, including paid medical and family leave or free community college.
House Republicans immediately attacked the Biden administration after the bill’s passage, claiming the president “chose leftist special interest groups and illegal immigrants over the needs of hardworking American families” in a statement released just minutes after the final vote.
Despite House Democrats’ celebrations, the Build Back Better Act still faces the harrowing Senate, where Democrats need every single one of their 50-person caucus to vote yes. Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) have gone out of their way to ensure all the more progressive — elements of the bill were stripped away, though while Sinema seems mostly on board with the House’s final version, Manchin is another story. It seems a virtual certainty that if the bill does pass the Senate, it will be as a package even more winnowed down from the already trimmed version passed by the House.
Still, for the time being, the Biden administration can breathe a sigh of relief at this one major hurdle having been cleared. And then it’s once more unto the breach, where the eponymous “better” will once more face the buzzsaw of centrist posturing and conservative obstinance.