Hoyer says ‘significant’ version of Build Back Better will pass this year
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) predicted Tuesday that substantial portions of President Biden’s stalled domestic agenda will find their way into law before the midterm elections, dismissing the current impasse over the Build Back Better Act as a routine bump in the legislative process.
“The overwhelming majority of that piece of legislation is supported by 50 Democratic United States senators, and they’ve said so,” Hoyer said on a Zoom call hosted by Politico. “There are some things that they don’t support, and we haven’t moved ahead on that. But we need to keep working on that, and we need to get it done.”
The House in November had passed its version of the Build Back Better bill, a $2.2 trillion package featuring a host of education, health care and climate programs that remains at the heart of Biden’s domestic wishlist. But the proposal has stalled in the Senate, where moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has balked at the price tag and certain provisions he fears will exacerbate both inflation and the national debt.
The standoff has sparked some speculation that Democrats will have to break the package into much smaller pieces, or abandon it altogether and move onto more popular messaging bills heading into the midterm elections.
But Hoyer on Tuesday rejected both scenarios, saying that while Manchin’s opposition has sunk the House-passed proposal in its current form, the centrist holdout has also voiced support for some of the bill’s most “significant” provisions. That list includes universal early education, an ObamaCare expansion, billions of dollars for climate programs and a provision empowering Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices on behalf of seniors.
“Joe Manchin has indicated he’s supportive of much of this legislation,” Hoyer said. “I’m of the belief that Build Back Better is going to pass. It won’t pass as we sent it to the Senate, obviously. It will be changed, but that’s the legislative process.”
Manchin’s position could create new challenges for Hoyer, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders, who had united their restive caucus behind the $2.2 trillion package last year and now face internal disagreements over how best to get some version of the legislation to Biden’s desk.
Some lawmakers have called for party leaders to splice the package into more palatable pieces and pass each one through the House, empowering vulnerable incumbents with messaging tools even if those proposals don’t become law. Some liberals, meanwhile, are still fighting for a massive package, hoping public pressure in West Virginia will force Manchin to cave. Complicating the debate is a third group, representing high-income districts like those in New York, New Jersey and Illinois, that’s warning they can’t support any package that doesn’t raise the cap on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction.
Hoyer acknowledged the dilemma facing House Democrats if a “skinny” Build Back Better bill wins Manchin’s support and returns to the lower chamber.
“Very frankly, we’ll have a decision to make: Do we support that which the Senate can pass?” he said.
But the majority leader made clear that enacting a pared back package is preferable to no package at all.
“We know that what 50 senators have said they’re for is an extraordinarily positive package for America,” he said. “And therefore if we get that back — even if it doesn’t have everything we want to do — my view will be, and I think the Speaker’s view will be, we need to pass that.”
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