President Joe Biden’s $1.75 trillion bill to bolster the social safety net and fight climate change passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday (November 19) and headed to the Senate, where divided moderates and liberals still need to reach agreement.
The House passed the measure in a 220-213 vote, which was postponed for hours by an angry overnight opposition speech from the chamber’s top Republican. Elated Democrats gathered on the House floor to cheer the vote with waves of applause, while disgruntled Republicans called for order.
“Now, the Build Back Better Act goes to the United States Senate, where I look forward to it passing as soon as possible so I can sign it into law,” Biden said in a statement following the vote.
Friday’s House vote came after Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke for a record-setting 8-1/2 hours starting late Thursday. He cataloged a list of Republican grievances – some related to the bill and some not – and at times shouted down Democrats in the House who were openly dismissive.
In a dig at McCarthy, Pelosi later raised chuckles with her own speech supporting the bill, saying: “As a courtesy to my colleagues, I will be brief.” “If you’re a mom, a dad, a family caregiver or the rest this bill’s for you.” said Pelosi, whom Biden later called to congratulate.
Senate Democrats hope to reach agreement by the end of December with centrist Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who have raised concerns about the bill’s size and some of its provisions.
Deliberations over an assortment of prickly issues, ranging from tax policy to government-paid family leave benefits, are likely to alter the measure before it can pass the chamber. A defection by any of the Senate’s 48 Democrats and the two independents who caucus with them would sink the bill, which faces united Republican opposition. An altered Senate version would require the House to vote again before Biden could sign the measure into law.
But with the initial House passage complete and the recent enactment of a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, Biden and his Democratic allies have considerable momentum as the measure approaches the finish line.
(Production: Pavithra George)