Washington, Idaho Congress members vote on party line on $2 trillion Build Back Better Act

Like nearly all Congressional delegations, members of Congress from Idaho and Washington voted Friday along party lines for a roughly $2 trillion bill that would make fundamental changes to numerous federal social and environmental programs.

Democrats praised the proposal as a monumental shift to make real progress on climate change, improve health care and help middle class and poor families who have found the American Dream further from their reach in recent decades.

Republicans slammed the bill as nothing short of a socialist agenda that would drive up debt and fuel rising inflation and supply shortages – which already are causing problems for many Americans.

The vote, 220-213, was cast on complete partisan lines, except for Maine Democratic Rep. Jared Golden, who voted no.

The plan, named the Build Back Better Act after President Joe Biden’s campaign promise, will head to the Senate where it faces an uncertain future. Moderate Democrats there, including West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, have raised several concerns and demanded changes.

Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray said in a Tweet following the vote that the Senate should vote on the bill “as soon as possible.”

“From the start, I’ve made it absolutely clear: we need both the bipartisan infrastructure law and the #BuildBackBetter Act to give families, workers, and small businesses the opportunities they need to succeed.”

Spokane Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said in a statement that the spending called for in the bill would lead to inflation and other problems.

“Today, President Biden and House Democrats passed legislation that will fundamentally transform the United States of America – and not for the better,” McMorris Rodgers said. “This multitrillion dollar tax and spending spree is an unprecedented lurch towards more government control in our lives that will saddle our children with a debt they can never pay back.”

But Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier, whose district stretches from Wenatchee to the Seattle suburbs, celebrated its passage.

“This historic bill will down the cost of health care & prescription drugs, set the U.S. on course to meet its climate goals, create millions of family wage jobs, and ensure families have access to affordable, quality child care and pre-K,” Schrier said in a statement.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, played an integral part in the bill’s passage as a leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. She backed a compromise among her party earlier this month that allowed the bipartisan infrastructure bill to pass while slowing the Build Back Better Act, allowing the Congressional Budget Office to finish its analysis of the bill’s costs before a vote, a demand among moderates. In exchange, most moderates agreed to vote in favor of the bill.

“This historic bill is going to deliver real change for you, your family, and communities across the country!” Jayapal tweeted after the vote.

The Congressional Budget Office’s analysis was released Thursday and determined the bill would add $367 billion to the deficit over 10 years. Biden had claimed his plan would not add to the deficit, a promise that was seized on by some Republicans. Democrats, however, have noted that amount would fall to $160 billion once a provision aimed at boosting the enforcement of tax laws is considered, the New York Times reported.

“Our national debt has already surpassed $28 trillion – to put that number in perspective, that’s roughly ($230,000) per taxpayer. Speaker Pelosi and other Democratic leaders might have ($230,000) just lying around, but most people – the vast majority of the people I represent – don’t,” said Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson, in a prepared statement.

A news release from Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, called the bill a “socialist spending spree.”

“The American people are already struggling to make ends meet thanks to the skyrocketing inflation that has negatively impacted wage growth, supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and increasing gas prices we’ve been experiencing under the Biden Administration,” Newhouse said.

Republican Rep. Russ Fulcher, who represents North Idaho, mounted several criticisms of the bill, including that it tackles numerous major topics at once that should only be considered individually.

“Being pushed through the House without any Republican support, this legislation reflects the most extreme priorities of the House Democratic caucus, and would put our country one step closer to socialism.”

Some Democrats stood by earlier Democratic claims that showed the act would pay for itself. Rep. Marilyn Strickland, D-Tacoma, called the bill “transformational,” and said it would ease housing, child care and health care crises faced by Americans.

“When we invest in women, families and caregivers, we power an economic recovery that benefits all of us,” Strickland said. “With the Build Back Better Act, Congress will deliver life-changing benefits for families in the South Sound and across our nation – all without adding to the national debt.”

Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, focused his response on the bill’s child care programs.

“The average annual cost for child care in Washington is over $13,400. The #BuildBackBetter Act will expand access for over 470,100 young Washingtonians and ensure that no Washington family pays more than 7% of their income on child care,” Kilmer said in a Tweet. “That’s a BIG deal for folks in our region.”

While the bill would provide significant aid to poor and moderate-income families, Republicans noted that some provisions also benefit the rich. Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo cited work from the Joint Committee on Taxation that indicated 90% of taxpayers earning between $500,000 and $1 million would receive tax benefits from the act.

“This is hardly a broad-based tax cut for the middle class,” said Crapo, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.

Despite some benefits to high earners, the Democratic proposal mostly would be paid for, in part, by new taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

Bellevue Democrat Rep. Adam Smith praised Pelosi for ushering the bill through the House despite only a slight majority and major disagreement among moderates and liberals in her party.

“She has once again proven to be among the most talented legislators and leaders in our history,” Smith tweeted. “No margin for error, yet she delivered.”

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