Astonished Democrats want to clear the finish line with climate, tax and health packages

(The Hill) – For more than a year, Democrats have wrestled with the massive climate, health and tax package that has been at the heart of their domestic political agenda, prompting clashes between factions and raising doubts about President Joe Biden’s ability to unite his troops behind transformative laws.

This week’s vote to get the enormous proposal across the finish line will feature no such drama.

House Democrats of all stripes are lining up to approve the Senate’s $740 billion tax and spending package on Friday, when the lower chamber returns shortly to Washington, sending legislation to Biden’s desk and giving the president and his party a big one Win secures less than three months after midterm elections.

It seems likely that the bill could clear the House without a single Democratic defection, be it from the left or the center of the party.

The overall honors reflect, at least in part, Democrats’ astonishment that they are even voting on an important part of Biden’s domestic political agenda.

Just a few weeks ago, the prospects of passing a massive climate package this year seemed dead, buried under opposition from centrist senators – most notably Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) – who fear that new federal spending will exacerbate inflation.

The bill’s revival — a deal privately worked out between Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (DN.Y.) — has drastically expanded the legislative gains of Biden’s Democrats, giving them a late political boost when they expected the Midterm elections are going to shift control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans.

“It’s a big deal, it’s historic. And I’m committed to getting it on the ground, passing it on and getting it to the President’s desk,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chair of the rules committee, told reporters at the Capitol Wednesday night.

“People like me wanted a lot more, right? But the bottom line is that you can only do what is possible in the reality you live in,” he continued. “And in any other Congress, if we were to pass any of those things — a component of what’s in this Act of Reconciliation — it would be huge.”

The package includes important changes across the spectrum of domestic policies, including efforts to reduce drug costs for seniors; expanding health care subsidies for the working class; Reducing deficit spending through corporate tax increases and incentives for companies and individuals to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. All in all, it represents the most comprehensive effort to combat climate change in the country’s history.

“It’s a great bill; it’s historic,” spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters at the Capitol this week. “Of course I want more – we always want more. But that’s a lot.”

Pelosi and her House Democrats had passed a much larger package late last year: a $2 trillion proposal that not only bolstered environmental and health programs but also a slew of social service initiatives — things like childcare grants, universal preschools, and paid ones Family leave — which were omitted in the slimmer bill passed by the Senate on Sunday.

The exclusions have drawn some grumbling from progressive lawmakers who had been campaigning for a bigger package, but none of them seem willing to oppose the Senate bill to protest its size.

Indeed, House Liberals — including leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and members of the far-left “squad” — were elated and cheered the bill as it was brought through the Senate to the House of Representatives for a vote on Friday.

“While we are heartbroken to see several essential parts of the care economy, housing and immigration left on the cutting room floor — as well as a successful Republican effort to remove insulin price caps for those with private insurance — we know that the Inflation Reduction Act is making real progress on key progressive priorities,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), leader of the Progressive Caucus.

Across the ideological divide, leaders of the Blue Dogs, a group of centrist household hawks, also hail the package as transformative and tout its powers to reduce government deficits on top of the domestic initiatives it promotes.

“We remain focused on solving our country’s major economic, energy and climate problems for future generations and will quickly send this bill to the President’s desk,” the Co-Chairs of Blue Dog – Reps. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) – said in a statement.

With a razor-thin majority in the House of Representatives and every Republican expected to oppose the proposal, Democrats will need the support of almost every member of the caucus to get it on Biden’s desk. But if last year’s vote on the $2 trillion package is a preview, they have little to worry about.

This larger Build Back Better package had passed easily; only one Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden (Maine), had voted against. And the smaller Senate bill is expected to similarly sail through the House on Friday.

“If you can get Bernie Sanders and Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer and Kyrsten Sinema to all vote for something … I have to believe that’s going to happen,” McGovern said. “I don’t know of any Democrat who will defect.”

Golden’s office did not respond to a request for comment, but local media reports indicate that he has praised at least parts of the Senate bill.

For Pelosi, who has led House Democrats for nearly two decades, the bill represents a major legislative victory in a long career that has been filled with them. It also includes a number of provisions she prioritized but failed to implement during her first term as speaker more than a decade ago.

In 2009, for example, House Democrats passed a sweeping climate change bill only to see it ignored by Senate Democrats. A separate proposal authorizing Medicare to negotiate lower prescription prices for seniors also moved through the lower chamber during those years but did not become law.

“We’ve been fighting this for decades, and Big Pharma has a firm grip on Congress,” she said this week.

Across the aisle, Republicans have sharply divided views on the massive package, saying the soon-to-be passed legislation will only hurt a fragile economy already battered by months of instability and rising consumer costs. GOP leaders are also focusing squarely on one provision of the package – new tools for the IRS to investigate tax evasion – with warnings that this will empower the country’s tax collectors to “harass” working-class people.

“When you have more cops, you have more arrests,” Rep. Kevin Brady (Texas), a senior Republican on the Internal Revenue Service’s Ways and Means Committee, said in an interview with Fox News this week. “You will see that much of the revenue to pay this bill will come from middle-class working families who can least afford to be attacked and harassed by the IRS.”

Democrats have dismissed GOP criticism, noting that key provisions of the package all score high in opinion polls. If the win doesn’t change the broader midterm election outcome, they say, it can only help them in individual races.

“I wouldn’t want to go home and explain to my constituents why I voted against lowering their prescription drug costs. …Or go home and say I haven’t done anything to tackle the climate crisis or I haven’t done anything to pay down the debt,” McGovern said.

“I mean, if they want to, they can do it.”

Michael Schnell contributed to this.

https://www.woodtv.com/news/national/astonished-democrats-set-to-clear-finish-line-with-climate-tax-health-care-package/ Astonished Democrats want to clear the finish line with climate, tax and health packages

Dais Johnston

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