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May Be A Build Back Better Vote Today. That Would Be Good!
Or maybe moderates need more time to 'study' it.
House Democratic leaders said last night that they're planning a procedural vote this morning on the great big Build Back Better reconciliation bill, a step toward finalizing the package of social safety net and climate spending. The Washington Post reports that Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent Thursday in an "all-out campaign to finalize the legislation, wrangle sufficient support in the narrowly divided chamber and bring the debate over the long-stalled tax-and-spending measure to a close."
According to CBS News and National Public Radio, the latest version of the bill is pretty similar to the framework the White House announced
a million years ago orlast week, with a lower overall price tag, except this one has added back four weeks of paid family and medical leave and some version of negotiated Medicare prescription drug prices.
There's also a new plan to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for five-year work permits that would prevent them from being deported, which falls short of the path to citizenship many advocates had wanted, but which had already been ruled out by the Senate parliamentarian. The new provision might or might not meet the strict "budget items only" reconciliation rules. Finally, the revisions include a temporary increase of the 2017 tax law's cap on how much state and local tax people can deduct from federal taxes, from $10,000 to $80,000 for nine years, after which the cap would go down to $10,000 again, basically leaving it up to some future Congress to figure out how much people in states with high property taxes can deduct.
So, assuming there really is some kind of agreement on all that, the House may vote to bring Build Back Better to the floor today, in what everyone's calling a "key procedural vote," although what exactly that means still seems fuzzy. We really wish the "I'm Just a Bill" song were more specific about all that. We seem to be well past "stuck in committee" but a couple steps short of "I go to the House of Representatives, and they vote on me."
But we do know this much: The Joint Committee on Taxation yesterday released an estimate that the tax provisions in the bill would bring in about $1.5 trillion in new revenue over 10 years, which is a tad short of the estimated $1.75 trillion (or maybe $1.85 trillion ) cost of the bill. But that estimate is based only on direct taxes, and doesn't include other revenue expected from the bill, like the savings on prescription drugs (if that provision stays in) or funds raised by increased enforcement of tax laws by a beefed-up IRS, which Democrats say could come to $400 billion, closing the gap all on its own.
The full tally from the Congressional Budget Office isn't in yet, but Dem leadership is confident the math all adds up; WaPo reports that as of last night, "CBO had not yet furnished its numbers, though Pelosi shared additional data from the White House that she said showed the bill did not add to the deficit." That may be enough for House moderates, or maybe it won't!
Also too, it looks like Pelosi has backed off an earlier promise she made to moderates that she wouldn't ask them to vote on any provisions that wouldn't pass in the Senate; it's not at all clear that Joe Manchin is willing to accept a pared-down version of family leave, or that the immigration provision will get an OK from the Senate parliamentarian. As of yesterday, Manchin was still saying he loves family leave, he wants family leave, and he'll only vote for family leave in a separate, "bipartisan" bill, which is where good ideas go to die.
As we've mentioned previously, we're really not all that excited about Richard Neal's klunky, private-insurance-based form of family leave that was in the original bill; it appears that's the plan that's been restored to the bill. If it even stays in the bill.
Whether any of this is finalized enough to meet House progressives' demand that the bill be fully passed before they'll vote on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework is another thing we don't know yet. Danged if we know anything really, I'm about ready to just ram one front wheel up on the sidewalk and call this story parked anyway and we'll let you know what happened later.
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