WASHINGTON (AP) — A fractious House handed President Biden a marquee victory Friday by approving a roughly $2 trillion social and environment bill, as Democrats cast aside disputes that for months had stalled the measure and hampered efforts to sell their priorities to voters.
Lawmakers approved the legislation 220-213 as every Democrat but one backed it, overcoming unanimous Republican opposition. The measure now heads to the Senate, where changes are certain and disputes between cost-conscious Democratic moderates and progressives who seek bold policy changes will flare anew.
For the moment, Democrats were happy to shake off a dispiriting period of off-year election setbacks, tumbling Biden poll numbers and public disgruntlement over inflation, stalled supply chains and the pandemic. All that and the party’s nasty internal bickering have left voters with little idea of how the legislation might help them, polls have shown.
“Above all, it puts us on the path to build our economy back better than before by rebuilding the backbone of America: working people and the middle class,” Biden said in a statement.
He told reporters at the White House he expected the legislation to “take a while” to move through the Senate but declared, “I will sign it. Period.”
The legislation, among the most expensive in years, is remarkable for its reach. It rewrites tax, health care, environment, education, housing and other policies, shoring up low- and middle-income families, helping the elderly and combating climate change. Most of it would be paid for with tax boosts on the country’s highest earners, biggest corporations and companies doing business abroad. That includes new surtaxes on people earning over $10 million annually and a corporate minimum tax.
Because of its size, scope and status as a symbol of what Democrats stand for, each party thinks the package will help in next year’s midterm elections, when Republicans have a solid chance at capturing House and Senate control.
“Hey, hey, goodbye,” GOP lawmakers sang, taunting Democrats during the vote. Republicans call the measure a waste of money that will worsen budget deficits, overheat an inflation-battered economy and show voters that Democrats can’t resist ever-larger government.
Democrats see the 2,100-page legislation as overdue and long-lasting help for a vast swath of the nation.
The bill “will be the pillar of health and financial security in America,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “If you are a parent, a senior, a child, a worker, if you are an American, this bill is for you.”
Still, the measure faces an uncertain fate in the Senate. That chamber’s 50-50 split plus solid GOP opposition gives every Democrat veto power. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who helped slash the bill’s 10-year cost from its earlier $3.5 trillion, has opposed a provision for four weeks of paid family leave.