Democrats had been hoping to pass the legislation Thursday evening, but McCarthy thwarted that plan by delivering a lengthy speech railing against Democrats on the House floor. It’s unclear when McCarthy will finish speaking.
The legislation would deliver on long-standing Democratic priorities by dramatically expanding social services for Americans, working to mitigate the climate crisis, increasing access to health care and delivering aid to families and children.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer explained the delay by saying McCarthy wants to force passage of the bill “in the dead of night,” a politically charged description that has been used to criticize legislation in the past.
McCarthy was able to hold the floor indefinitely under the procedures of the House, which say the majority leader and the minority leader get what’s called a “Magic Minute” at the end of floor debate, meaning they can speak for as long as they want. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used a similar tactic as minority leader in 2018, speaking for more than eight hours on the House floor in a speech about young undocumented immigrants, the longest in House history.
As a result, Democrats are working hard to keep their fragile coalition of moderates and progressives united behind the package. The legislation has already been the subject of intense disputes between warring party factions in the House, and Democrats have no margin for error in the Senate.
The legislation will likely have to be altered, potentially significantly, to get every member of the Senate Democratic caucus to vote for it as key members raise major concerns with the contents of the bill.
What’s in the legislation
The Build Back Better Act represents a central part of Biden’s policy agenda and an attempt by congressional Democrats to go it alone without GOP support to enact a major expansion of the social safety net.
The Build Back Better Act is an effort by Democrats to build on that investment in traditional infrastructure by making extensive investments to ramp up social programs and address the climate crisis.
The White House worked to make the case that the bill will be fully paid for, despite the CBO analysis showing a shortfall.
Senior White House officials Brian Deese and Louisa Terrell met with moderate House Democrats after the numbers were released, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
The CBO’s analysis score does not include revenue from tighter IRS enforcement. The CBO estimated earlier that would raise $207 billion.
Obstacles ahead in the Senate
In a warning sign for the party, Manchin, the most important swing vote who has expressed major concerns over a variety of elements of the bill, told CNN on Thursday that he has not decided whether to support voting to proceed to the Build Back Better bill, the critical first vote to take up the measure in the Senate. Any one Democratic defection would stall the effort.
“No,” Manchin said when asked if he had made a decision to vote to proceed. “I’m still looking at everything.” The comments reflect that Manchin is still not on board with the legislation and signal the tough road ahead for Democrats.
The West Virginia Democrat said that he wants to see the final numbers from the Congressional Budget Office and changes made to the bill. “I just haven’t seen the final, the final bill. So when the final bill comes out, CBO score comes out, then we’ll go from there,” he said.
A fight is also brewing over a controversial tax provision that some progressives have decried as a giveaway to the rich.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, on Thursday railed on the House provisions dealing with the state and local tax deductions, calling it “wrong” and “bad politics.”
“Democrats correctly have campaigned on the understanding that amidst massive income and wealth inequality, we’ve got to demand that the wealthy start paying their fair share of taxes, not give them more tax breaks,” Sanders said.
“So what I can tell you is I am working with a number of Democrats who share that concern, and I hope as soon as possible to come up with a plan. But bottom line is we have to help the middle class and not the one percent.”
Democratic Rep. Jared Golden of Maine announced ahead of the final House vote that he would vote against the bill, citing the tax provision.
Pelosi defended the legislation against criticism that wealthy Americans will benefit disproportionately as a result of the provisions.
“That’s not about tax cuts for wealthy people. It’s about services for the American people,” she said earlier in the day.
“This isn’t about who gets a tax cut. It’s about which states get the revenue that they need in order to meet the needs of the people, and that is a fight that I will continue to make.”
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Friday.
CNN’s Lauren Fox, Annie Grayer and Katie Lobosco contributed to this report.