The backbone of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda, known as the Build Back Better plan, passed the U.S. House on Friday morning and heads to the Senate where the $1.9 trillion social spending bill is expected to trimmed.
Regardless of where the final numbers land, Pennsylvania Democrats are hailing the passage as a win for all state residents, who are likely to see tax credits and tax cuts.
The legislation would continue the monthly child tax credit payments through 2022, close the racial gap in homeownership, lower the cost of prescription drugs, provide universal preschool and more.
“It gives people the opportunities and resources they need to have a better quality of life,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement Friday afternoon.
Wolf said Biden’s plan includes some of the issues he has prioritized during his two terms in office and would make child care, home care, education, health care, and housing more affordable.
It would also address the climate crisis and build on the recently passed infrastructure bill.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., celebrates in the chamber with her caucus after the House approved the Democrats’ sweeping social and environment bill, giving a victory to President Joe Biden, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Nov. 19, 2021.
The bill would look to boost the economic recovery in Pennsylvania, which recently reported a 6% unemployment rate amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It will put folks back to work by providing child care and care for seniors — gaps that have kept people, particularly women, out of the workforce,” state Sen. Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, said in a statement Friday.
Build Back Better would cut taxes for working families “and ensures billionaires pay their fair share,” he said.
State Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks, said the bill would also lower prescription drug prices, which has been a big issue in Pennsylvania because it has one of the oldest populations in the country.
“All this can be accomplished without adding to the deficit,” she said in a statement Friday.
State Sen. Tim Kearney, D-Delaware, said the bill would rebuild the middle class, create jobs, reduce costs, tackle the climate crisis and make the country more competitive.
“This is a huge win,” he said in a statement Friday.
Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia, who is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee that added provisions to Build Back Better, said the plan invests in workers and the economy and improves health care affordability.
“This is a once-in-a-generation bill that would change America for the better – with help that so many families need for child care, elder care or both – and a massive investment in affordable housing,” Evans said in a statement Friday.
But while U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi championed the legislation as “the pillar of health and financial security in America,” Republicans were quick to push against it.
U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-Kreamer, disagreed with the Biden administration that the bill is paid for by higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations.
He said every American family would be paying for it in the form of higher taxes, skyrocketing energy costs and inflated prices on things like groceries and healthcare.
“Long after we’re gone, our children and grandchildren will still be paying for this outrageous spending,” Keller said in a statement Friday. “This bill is shameful, and it will do far more harm than good.”
U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Bucks County Republican who has voted with Democrats on many issues, including the recent infrastructure bill, decried a lack of bipartisanship with the social agenda.
“Regrettably, instead of coming to the table to negotiate on the social spending reconciliation package, House Democratic leadership decided to take the completely opposite approach when they hastily forced Build Back Better through the House on a totally partisan vote,” he said in a statement Friday. “We need two-party solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems.”
Pennsylvania’s Capitol Hill delegation voted along party lines. All nine Democrats voted for it, and eight of nine Republicans voted against it. U.S. Rep. Scott Perry was marked non-voting because he’s still quarantining after contracting COVID-19.
Here’s what they voted for or against:
Affordable child care for nearly 740,000 Pennsylvania children ages 0 to 5
More than $150 billion nationally for affordable housing
Monthly child tax credit payments through the end of 2022 of up to $300 per child
Negotiated prices for 10 brand-name drugs in 2025 and up to 20 by 2028
Training grants for low-income Americans to help them get jobs in health care
Environmental justice tax credits for low-income and at-risk communities
Nearly $1 trillion in clean energy and climate investments across the country
“What we are passing is historic in its size and amounts to major progress that would make a real difference in so many people’s lives in Philadelphia and across the country,” Evans said.
“This would be massive change, and we can also build on it in the future.”