The Democratic effort to overhaul the tax code and social safety net, including making two years of pre-K and community college free and subsidizing child care and health insurance costs, cleared a major hurdle this week.
In a party-line vote Tuesday, Democrats in the House of Representatives passed a budget resolution giving them the option to pass their $3.5 trillion spending plan through a simple majority in the Senate, which is divided 50-50 between the two parties, but controlled by the Democrats because Vice President Kamala Harris can cast a tie-breaking vote. The measure passed after House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi successfully negotiated with some Democratic members who had resisted supporting it until being assured that a bipartisan infrastructure bill would get its own separate vote.
The budget plan includes a number of reforms proposed by President Joe Biden in April—proposals Democrats have dubbed the “Build Back Better Agenda.” The details have yet to be fleshed out, but lawmakers say they want to extend this year’s changes to the child tax credit, create a national paid medical and family leave program for workers, provide two years of free pre-kindergarten education and two years of free community college, place a cap on childcare costs for low and middle-income families, and increase taxes on the wealthy.
“The president’s vision to Build Back Better will create jobs, cut taxes, and lower health costs for America’s working families,” Pelosi said in a statement. “This is a truly historic opportunity to pass the most transformative and consequential legislation for families in a century, and will stand alongside the New Deal and Great Society as pillars of economic security.”
Had the resolution not passed, the spending plan could have been blocked by a Republican filibuster that would have taken 60 votes to break. On Twitter, Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy called the budget plan a “socialist spending spree,” while Republican Rep. Fred Keller said “our kids and grandkids will have to foot the bill.”
Democratic lawmakers in committees of both the House and Senate now have until Sept. 15 to actually write the legislation.
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