The US House of Representatives is set to vote on Joe Biden’s $1.75tn Build Back Better bill as soon as today, after the independent government agency that provides cost estimates for big legislation said it would complete its work within a matter of hours.
Nancy Pelosi, House speaker, told reporters on Thursday morning that a vote on Build Back Better would “hopefully . . . take place later this afternoon” after an official cost estimate was published.
Phillip Swagel, Congressional Budget Office director, later confirmed the agency would publish its complete cost assessment, which has been insisted upon by a group of House moderates as a precursor to any vote, by Thursday afternoon.
That set the stage for a vote on Build Back Better — a sweeping package that would invest billions of dollars in early childhood education, public healthcare for senior citizens and efforts to combat climate change — just one week after the lower chamber of Congress approved the other pillar of the president’s legislative agenda, a $1.2tn bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Biden signed the infrastructure package, which largely allocates federal funds to repairing roads, bridges, tunnels and other transport systems, into law on Monday and has since travelled the country touting the benefits of the investments to voters.
Biden and the Democrats are looking to shore up support ahead of next year’s midterm elections, when control of both chambers of Congress will hang in the balance.
The White House had hoped to push the infrastructure bill and Build Back Better through Congress in tandem. But the larger budget bill, which Democrats are aiming to pass without Republican support, has been held up by months of Democratic party infighting that has exposed fissures between its progressive and moderate members.
A handful of House moderates, led by New Jersey Democrat Josh Gottheimer, said earlier this month that they were withholding support for the budget bill until the Congressional Budget Office published its cost estimates for the package.
The White House has insisted that the package will be “fully paid for”, namely through efforts to close tax loopholes for corporations and a new tax for people earning more than $10m a year. But critics have questioned whether the proposed public spending would add to the federal deficit at a time when Americans are increasingly concerned about rising consumer prices.
Republicans have sought to tie Biden’s spending plans to inflation, in a message that appears to resonate with a segment of the electorate. The latest national opinion polls show the president’s approval rating at an all-time low, with a growing share of Americans disapproving of his handling of the economy.
Democrats, meanwhile, have argued that the investments in the infrastructure and Build Back Better bills will combat inflation through long-term investments in the economy.
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