Democrats press toward vote on massive Biden bill

House Democrats are planning to vote Thursday evening on the massive social benefits and climate package at the core of President Biden’s domestic agenda, lending the embattled party a significant victory heading into the long Thanksgiving recess.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who formally sets the floor schedule, announced the plan Thursday afternoon, just hours after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had signaled an intent to race the bill to the floor by day’s end.

“It is my hope that we will complete this legislation today so that this would be the last legislative day prior to the Thanksgiving work period,” Hoyer said on the House floor.

Standing in the way of the vote has been a cost analysis from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Congress’s official scorekeeper, where officials have been racing around the clock to complete more than a dozen provisional estimates gauging the budgetary impacts of provisions under the various committees.

As of Thursday afternoon, 12 of the 13 cost reports had been released publicly, and “the complete estimate” will be unveiled later in the day, the CBO announced Thursday around noon.

The CBO reports have been vital to the process, since a handful of moderate Democrats have withheld their support for Biden’s massive “family” benefits package until those estimates were released. The moderates want assurances that the legislation is fully paid for, and that the CBO’s numbers comport with figures released earlier by the White House and the various House committees.

So far, the moderates like what they see.

“Based on what I’m hearing from CBO,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), “I don’t see a lot of differences,” 

Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), another moderate, delivered a similar assessment heading into the afternoon.

“There’s a broad sense that there’s not anything that’s going to be a dealbreaker at this stage,” he said. “That has to be, of course, supported by the eventual report.”

The budget office has paved the way for the vote in recent days, issuing a series of cost reports regarding some of the most significant new spending programs contained in the bill, including expansions of childcare subsidies, early education programs and climate initiatives.

Still outstanding is the report governing the Ways and Means Committee, which oversees some of the major tax and health care changes. But Democratic leaders aren’t expecting any surprises that might complicate their plan to stage the vote on final passage Thursday evening.

“Everything’s in place,” said Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. “We just need the score.”

Liberal Democrats, who had championed a much larger version of the bill, are also cheering it to the finish line.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, noted that the moderate holdouts had never insisted on a comprehensive CBO score, but only enough “fiscal information” to convince them that the bill wouldn’t pile onto deficit spending.

“This was never really supposed to be about the CBO scores,” said Jayapal. “It was just about getting enough fiscal information to make people comfortable that those estimates weren’t wildly off. And they’re not.”

Democrats are hoping House passage of the huge benefits bill, coming in the same week that Biden signed a popular $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law, will help to shift their political fortunes heading into next year’s midterm elections.

Biden has been plunging in the polls in recent weeks, yanked down by rising inflation concerns, a stubborn supply chain crisis and an ongoing coronavirus pandemic that continues to threaten public health and undermine a fragile economic recovery.

For the rank-and-file Democrats eager to tout a big victory in their districts over the holiday, the prospect of finally voting on Biden’s benefits bill — rather than fighting over the process to get it to the floor — brought palpable relief.

“We’ve [had] exhaustive debate for months here about the bill,” said Neal. “I think it’s been vetted from A to Z.”

After House passage, the legislation will move to the Senate, which is expected to take up the legislation following the Thanksgiving break. Because the Senate is expected to make changes to the bill, the proposal will then return to the House for another, conclusive vote. 

Updated at 3:52 p.m.

Tags Build Back Better Dean Phillips Joe Biden Kurt Schrader Nancy Pelosi Pramila Jayapal Richard Neal Steny Hoyer

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