The Build Back Better Act, a major spending bill championed by President Joe Biden, has been passed by the House of Representatives on a largely party-line vote, sending it to the Senate for approval.
The bill includes $1.75 trillion in new spending, including free pre-kindergarten education, subsidized health care, reductions in prescription drug costs, and expanded childcare subsidies. It has been characterized as the largest expansion to America’s social safety net since the onset of the “Great Society” programs under President Lyndon Johnson.
However, the plan is far from certain to succeed, as it has been opposed unanimously by Senate Republicans—and has been criticized by some centrist Senate Democrats, including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). While neither of these senators— regarded as critical swing votes in the evenly divided upper chamber—has openly confirmed that they will vote against the bill, both have expressed reservations about its scale and the programs contained within it. The two senators were instrumental in halving the bill in scope; it was originally intended to cost $3.5 trillion, before Manchin indicated he would not vote for it at that scale.
Manchin has also opposed the bill’s $500 billion investment in green energy and infrastructure, earning him criticism from the party’s progressive wing, which observed that he had a large financial stake in fossil fuels from his investments in West Virginia, one of the largest coal-mining areas in the United States.
Rather than cut programs from the bill to scale it back, Biden and Democratic leadership have mostly cut the durations of proposed programs to save money, meaning that the programs will need to be funded by Congress again sooner in order to avoid termination.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has indicated that the Senate would vote on the bill without delay “as soon as the necessary technical and procedural work with the Senate Parliamentarian has been completed,” according to a joint statement issued by Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“We will act as quickly as possible to get this bill to President Biden’s desk and deliver help for middle-class families,” the statement said.
In the Senate, the bill is expected to be passed through “reconciliation,” a parliamentary procedure that prevents the Republican minority from filibustering the legislation. The Senate parliamentarian had earlier indicated that only one reconciliation bill would be allowed for the remainder of the Senate’s session, until January 2023.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.