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The U.S. House of Representatives is on the cusp of passing President Joe Biden's sweeping Build Back Better legislation. The $1.7 trillion bill would touch everything from child care to health care to climate change. While Democrats are ready to vote yes, Republicans are lining up in opposition. Lisa Desjardins reports.
The U.S. House of Representatives is on the cusp of passing President Biden's sweeping Build Back Better legislation. The $1.7 trillion bill would touch issues from child care and health care to climate change.
While Democrats are ready to vote yes, Republicans are lining up in opposition.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY):
Enacting this legislation will be a momentous achievement for Congress, but, more importantly, it will change lives, it will save lives, and deliver on the promise of the American dream for generations to come.
Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO):
It's transformational. It will completely change America as we know it, all at the expense of working-class families.
Lisa Desjardins is again on Capitol Hill tonight with the latest.
So, Lisa, it looks like it's about to happen. Tell us where we are. What have been the last-minute hangups?
Two things the House of Representatives was waiting for.
One was what is called a privileged scrub by the Senate to make sure that this bill just passes the entry requirements, essentially, for the reconciliation budget process that's needed in the Senate, so that it can get through with just 50 votes. It has done that.
The second thing that the House was waiting for was the cost of this bill. The estimate from the Congressional Budget Office just came in minutes ago, Judy. Let me tell you what the Congressional Budget Office found, that the total spending in this bill is $1.7 trillion. That's about what we expected, however, something that we did not necessarily expect, that the bill would add $367 billion to the deficit.
That is something that I think you could expect Republicans to talk about in coming days.
Now, there are some highlights from what CBO found. Some of the bigger issues, some of the bigger chunks of this, child care, pre-K universal, that's about $382 billion worth of this bill. Also, another big-ticket item, Medicaid expansion, $167 billion. Both of those items, Judy, among those in this bill that would affect hundreds of millions of people in this country.
As you heard, both parties agree this bill would be transformational. They just disagree over whether that would be good or bad for this country.
Well, Lisa, tell us a little more about what the scope of this bill is, what the Democrats are actually trying to do here, and why it's been so hard, why it's taken so long.
This has been a long time in coming for many different parts of the Democratic Party, who have seen needs in this country that they say have been unaddressed.
So, for example, let's take this out and talk more broadly about what's in here. When you talk about child care, what this bill aims to do is cover the care of a child all the way, and the education of that child, from birth through age 5. That is for almost every parent in this country.
Some will be subsidized more than others, but it deals with child care from that — in that entire age group. Now, it also would expand the Affordable Care Act coverage to include millions of people who fell into different coverage gaps, as well as expanding Medicaid in the out-years to include things like hearing aids. So it would transform how health care provided by the government works.
In addition, there are climate incentives in this bill more than in any other bill we have ever seen in American history. Of course, climate advocates wanted more in this, but this is something that would provide, they say, the kind of carbon reduction that gets us on the way toward their goal.
Then, of course, there also are higher taxes for the wealthy and for corporations. That is how this bill is paid for. But, as we have just reported, the Congressional Budget Office found that it didn't go far enough in paying for the full content of the bill, which is what Democrats have promised to do.
So, Lisa, I mean, what are Democrats going to do about that? How are they going to explain it? As you said, it appears, if it does add to the deficit, Republicans are going to criticize that. So what's the plan?
Well, I'm right now in texting with a lot of my Democratic sources to make sure this vote is going to happen tonight. They can only spare three votes. Everyone is feeling confident, including moderates. But I will say they're going to have to pay attention to Republicans, who will raise the cost of this bill.
There will be opportunity for this bill to change. In fact, we expect it to change once it reaches the Senate. But this is a major mile marker, a big achievement for Democrats, not the endgame yet, but a very big hurdle that they look like they will be getting over.
And it may be about to happen. We will see.
Lisa Desjardins, as always, reporting, thank you very much.
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Lisa Desjardins is a correspondent for PBS NewsHour, where she covers news from the U.S. Capitol while also traveling across the country to report on how decisions in Washington affect people where they live and work.
Matt Loffman is the PBS NewsHour's Deputy Senior Politics Producer
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