House Passes the Build Back Better Bill: Here’s What’s Next

Today, the House passed President Biden’s $1.9 trillion bill, better known as Build Back Better. The bill narrowly passed with the vote being 220-213, with only one Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine opposing the bill.

Now, the bill is heading to the Senate, which will be an ultimate test for the Democrat’s party unity.  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants to pass the bill by Christmas. After the bill passed in the House, Schumer said in a statement that the Senate “will act as quickly as possible to get this bill to President Biden’s desk and deliver help for middle-class families.” He also said they will quickly take up, “As soon as the necessary technical and procedural work with the Senate Parliamentarian has been completed.”

To be able to pass the bill, Schumer needs 50 of the members to back up the plan- some of those members include democratic socialist, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and conservative Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Any changes to the bill in the Senate will require another vote in the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi can only afford 3 defections. 

Moderate West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has expressed concerns over the bill and has mentioned to CNN on Thursday that he has not decided yet, whether to support the bill or not. It’s an ultimate test for the Democrats since they cannot afford defections. Machin says that he wants to see the final numbers from the Congressional Budget Office, saying “I just haven’t seen the final, the final bill. So when the final bill comes out, CBO score comes out, then we’ll go from there”.

Another Democrat, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., could bring changes to the bill, as she already criticized her party’s efforts to increase tax rates on the wealthiest individuals and big businesses. 

Tax policy could become a critical point in the Senate, and earlier this month, House Democrats agreed to reach a deal on loosening the caps on state and local tax deductions, which under the SALT deal would be capped from $80,000 to $10,000 through 2030. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders called this move on Thursday as “bad politics” and “wrong”. “You can’t be a political party that talks about demanding the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, and then end up with a bill that gives large tax breaks to millionaires. You can’t do that”. He said in a separate statement on Friday that he pledges to “strengthen the Build Back Better Act” in the Senate by strengthening the tax policy, drug prices, Medicare expansion, and climate crisis policy. 

Another possible policy that could be critical is that the Senate parliament will likely propose the House to establish a policy for limited legal protections for millions of undocumented immigrants. 

Pelosi said on Friday, “This bill will now be reshaped to their committees and at that point we’ll see where we need to, shall we say, reconcile our differences. But at the end of the day, we’ll have a great bill.”

The assessment indicated that the spending bill will be a bit more than initially proposed- $2.2 trillion from $1.9 trillion. The House bill includes subsidies for childcare which extends to the middle-class, hundreds of billions of dollars in housing support, expansion of Medicare to cover hearing aids, and increased options for low-income Americans to buy insurance through Medicaid. Around $550 billion will go into programs designed to tackle the climate crisis. The majority of the package is expected to be paid with hiking tax rates on corporations and the rich, which would bring an estimate of $1.5 trillion over 10 years.