House Democrats voted early Saturday to move forward with debate on a sweeping $1.75 trillion social spending plan — though the bill’s ultimate fate remains uncertain after five moderates voiced concerns about its potential effect on the federal budget deficit.
The House can now vote on the legislation, known as the Build back Better Act, by a 221-213 party-line vote.
However, the measure could languish for several days or weeks while the Congressional Budget Office produces its report, or “score” in Capitol Hill parlance, on the bill’s deficit effect.
The procedural vote followed House approval of the Senate-passed $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which was secured with the help of 13 GOPers who voted “yes” and more than made up for the six Democrats who voted “no.”
Democratic leaders had furiously whipped members of their conference in recent days as they hoped to pass both the infrastructure and social spending bills and deliver key elements of President Biden’s agenda.
“I’m asking every House member — member [of] the House Representatives, to vote yes on both of these bills right now,” Biden urged Friday morning.
Despite progressives’ threats to destroy the infrastructure measure (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.), opted to move forward with both procedural votes and the bipartisan bill.
Late Friday, progressives reached a deal to compromise with moderates. Progressives agreed to vote for the infrastructure bill and accept assurances that moderates would vote for the Build Back Better measure when it comes up.
Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, reversed her position. She had repeatedly said that her members would not vote for the bipartisan measure unless it was voted on simultaneously.
“Tonight, members of the Progressive Caucus and our colleagues in the Democratic Caucus reached an agreement to advance both pieces of President Biden’s legislative agenda. Our colleagues have committed to voting for the transformative Build Back Better Act, as currently written, no later than the week of November 15,” Jayapal said in a statement. “All of our colleagues have also committed to voting tonight on the rule to move the Build Back Better Act forward to codify this promise. The President has affirmed these members gave him the same commitment.”
“As part of this agreement, at the request of the President, and to ensure we pass both bills through the House, progressives will advance the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the House rule on Build Back Better tonight,” she added.
Moments earlier, the five moderates — Ed Case of Hawaii, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Kathleen Rice of New York, Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Stephanie Murphy of Florida, had said in a joint statement: “We commit to voting for the Build Back Better Act, in its current form other than technical changes, as expeditiously as we receive fiscal information from the Congressional Budget Office – but in no event later than the week of November 15.”
“Further in the event the fiscal information received from the Congressional Budget Office is inconsistent with the ‘White House Preliminary Budgetary Estimate of the Build Back Better Act’ document, we remain committed to working to resolve any discrepancies in order to pass the Build Back Better legislation,” the moderate statement added.
Hours earlier, House Majority leader Steny Hoyer (D.Md.) spoke out.), told reporters Friday afternoon that he expected to hold a vote on the social spending bill the week of Nov. 15 and that he was “absolutely convinced” it would pass.
Even if the House’s final version of the Build Back Better Act does pass the lower chamber in the coming weeks, it is expected to be amended in the Senate, where Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) has voiced opposition to language on paid family leave as well as a provision related to immigration reform.