US House passes Biden's $1.75tn social spending bill

President says passage of bill is 'giant step forward' in rebuilding backbone of US

US House Democrats brushed aside months-long divisions to push their expansive social and environment bill through a sharply divided chamber on Friday, as President Joe Biden and his party moved closer to capitalising on their control of government by funneling resources towards their top domestic priorities.

Mr Biden said the bill's passage puts the US economy back on track to rebuild the American middle class.

The bill took "another giant step forward in carrying out my economic plan to create jobs, reduce costs, make our country more competitive and give working people and the middle class a fighting chance", Mr Biden said in a statement.

Known as Build Back Better, the bill is designed to overhaul health care, taxation, climate policy and education.

Included in the bill are universal pre-kindergarten, four weeks of paid family leave, over $500 billion to fight climate change, childcare subsidies and more.

In a victory lap following the vote, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi touted passage of the bill as a "cause for celebration".

"This bill is monumental. It's historic, it's transformative, it's bigger than anything we've ever done," she said.

Ms Pelosi has frequently described the bill as transformative for women and children, in particular.

"We'll be telling our children and our grandchildren that we were here this day," she said.

The move comes after Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke for more than eight hours starting late Thursday night in remarks cataloging a list of Republican grievances - some related to the bill and some not - while at times shouting over Democrats in the House who were openly dismissive of his obstruction.

It also follows the Congressional Budget Office's estimate that the bill would raise federal budget deficits by $367 billion over 10 years, but that additional revenues from improved Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax collection could generate a net increase in revenue of $127bn through 2031.

The White House estimates the IRS changes will generate $400bn in additional revenue and says the bill overall will reduce deficits by $121bn over a decade.

Several moderate Democrats said they needed the budget office's assessment before they would vote, and several of them said they accepted the White House's math.

Opponents of the bill have argued that it will contribute to the nation's rising inflation, but Democrats have said the bill will actually counter it, as measures in the bill would lower prescription drug prices as well as the cost of childcare.

"Want to fight inflation? Support Build Back Better," US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said this week.

The legislation follows the $1tn infrastructure investment bill that Mr Biden signed into law this week - another key pillar of his domestic agenda - and a separate $1.9tn Covid-19 relief package that passed in March.

The social spending bill still needs approval in the Senate, where it is likely to face changes before Mr Biden can sign it into law.

Its success in the upper chamber is also not guaranteed, as Democrats hold an even slimmer majority there and cannot afford to lose any votes.

Mr Schumer wants the bill to pass the Senate before Christmas.

Moderate Democrat Joe Manchin has long frustrated his senatorial colleagues with his reluctance to support the bill and has yet to give any indication that he will vote for it.

But Ms Pelosi appeared confident that the bill would pass the upper chamber, noting that the most difficult part is now over.

"The biggest hurdle was to get the bill there. The biggest challenge was to meet the vision of President Biden," she said.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: November 19th 2021, 4:27 PM
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