House moves toward approval of Democrats’ sweeping social climate bill

House moves toward approval of Democrats’ sweeping social climate bill

Washington — The divided House moved toward approval Thursday of an expanded social and environmental bill for Democrats as new cost estimates from Congress’s chief fiscal analyst suggest lawmakers’ moderate spending and deficit concerns will subside, bringing President Joe Biden closer to a much-needed victory .

The final discussion on the long-awaited legislation came after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the bill would increase the federal deficit by $160 billion over the next decade. It also recalculated the 10-year price of the measure at $1.68 trillion, although that number is not directly comparable to the $1.85 trillion used by Democrats.

House approval of the legislation would lead to the Senate and end months of fighting between Democratic progressives and moderates over its costs and policies. While the significant changes in the Senate are likely due to cost-cutting demands by moderate Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va, a House pass would bring Biden closer to winning more of his domestic priorities at a time when his public approval is largely faltering. bad.

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The 2,100-page bill would boost childcare assistance, create free preschool, reduce prescription drug costs for seniors and boost efforts to slow climate change.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of California, said in a letter to colleagues, using Biden’s name for the legislation. She said the measure would “make a huge difference in the lives of millions of Americans.”

An initial set of key numbers released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office showed that its forecast closely aligns with previous estimates from the White House. This included tax breaks to spur clean energy development, child care subsidies and extended tax breaks for millions of families with children, low-income workers and people who buy private health insurance.

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The measure would save $109 billion to create free daycare for 3- to 4-year-olds. There were large sums of money for home health care for seniors, new Medicare coverage for hearing aids and a new requirement for four weeks of paid family leave. However, the removal of the family leave program was expected in the Senate, as Manchin opposed it.

In a key difference that was projected, the CBO estimated that by spending $80 billion to advance IRS tax enforcement, the agency would raise $207 billion in new revenue over the next decade. That means $127 billion in net savings, well below the White House’s most optimistic estimate of $400 billion.

In an oddity of keeping the results, the CBO has officially estimated that the legislation would increase the federal budget deficit by $367 billion over the next decade. The agency’s budget guidelines technically require that IRS savings not be accounted for when measuring the effect of a bill’s deficit. But she acknowledged that the real effect of the measure would be an additional shortfall in the lower figure — $160 billion — when calculating the additional revenue the IRS would collect.

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Biden and other Democratic leaders have said the measure will pay for it, in large part through tax increases on the wealthy, large corporations and companies doing business abroad.

Republicans said the legislation would damage an economy already struggling with inflation, grant tax breaks to some wealthy taxpayers, and make the government bigger and more intrusive. Missouri Rep. Jason Smith, the top Republican member of the Budget Committee, echoed the allure of “Build Back Better” to ridicule him.

“The economy goes bankrupt. It benefits the rich. It builds the Washington machine,” Smith said.

After two weeks of centrist Democrats’ objections to delay the measure, divisions in the party appear to have been resolved, for now. In the face of a united Republican opposition, Democrats cannot lose more than three votes to win the House of Representatives.

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In an important sign of the movement, Florida Representative Stephanie Murphy, a prominent House mediator, said she would support the measure after the latest budget numbers convinced her that the legislation was “financially disciplined.” Despite its flaws, the Rebuild Better Act contains a lot of positive elements.

Biden this week signed a trillion-dollar package of highways and other infrastructure projects, which he has spent recent days promoting across the country. But it has been battered recently by low approval numbers in opinion polls, reflecting voter concerns about inflation, supply chain delays and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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After months of talks, Democrats seemed eager to end it, leaving lingering disagreements on the shelf to start selling the package back home. House Democrats said they plan 1,000 events across the country by the end of the year to deliver the benefits of the measure to voters. They face the 2022 midterm elections, in which Republicans pin high hopes of seizing control of the House and Senate.

The House’s passage of the social and environmental bill would send it to the Senate by 50-50, where Democrats have no votes. This gave enormous influence to Manchin.

Senate talks could take weeks, and the prospect that Manchin or others would force additional cuts to the measure made it easier for House moderates to support the legislation Thursday. The amended bill must return to the House of Representatives before going to Biden’s office.

When the moderates delayed House passage of the bill two weeks ago, they said they wanted to make sure the Central Bank of Oman’s projections for its costs matched White House numbers, which showed the measure essentially paid for itself.

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But some moderates said expectations about IRS savings are not always certain and won’t make them oppose the measure. Others said the roughly $555 billion in tax credits and other costs to encourage clean energy don’t need to be paid for in the bill because global warming is an existential crisis.

The CBO has estimated that language that helps the government reduce the costs of prescription drugs will save $297 billion over 10 years. The savings will come from new drug company price controls, but also from blocking a rule on drug company discounts that President Donald Trump has started but has not yet taken effect.

The bill would also allow the government to issue work permits to millions of immigrants that would allow them to remain in the United States temporarily. That looks likely to be changed or repealed in the Senate, where rules limit the provisions allowed in budget bills.

The nonpartisan Committee on Responsible Federal Budget, which advocates fiscal constraints, estimated that the total cost of the bill would be about $5 trillion if Democrats did not make some of its programs temporary. For example, tax breaks for children and low-income workers, which are the party’s main priorities, are only extended for one year, making their prices appear lower, even though the party would like these programs to be permanent.

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Associated Press congressional correspondent Lisa Mascaro and reporter Fernoush Amiri contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

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