House Democrats are planning to pass President Biden’s sweeping $1.9 trillion social safety net expansion legislation on Friday morning after House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy stalled an effort to vote Thursday evening by delivering a record-breaking marathon floor speech overnight.
His delay was not expected to affect the eventual outcome of the vote, as Democrats projected confidence that they had enough support to send the measure to the Senate, where significant hurdles remain. Moderate Senate Democrats are expected to demand changes to the bill, meaning the House will likely have to vote on it again in the coming weeks before it goes to Biden’s desk.
McCarthy took to the House floor at 8:38 p.m. ET on Thursday to begin his speech railing against Democrats, and did not finish speaking until eight hours and 32 minutes later, the longest House floor speech in the chamber’s history. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced shortly after midnight that the vote, which had been expected as soon as Thursday evening, would be postponed until later Friday.
The House is scheduled to return at 8 a.m. ET and vote soon after.
“He wants to do it in the dead of night,” Hoyer said, referring to McCarthy. “We are going to do it in the day.”
The sweeping economic legislation stands as a key pillar of Biden’s domestic agenda. It 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.
Some more background: 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, which then became the longest in House history.
Once the legislation passes the House, it will face key hurdles in the Senate, with a fight looming over a controversial tax provision and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia still not on board.
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.