WASHINGTON (KDKA) - On a party-line vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Democratic majority approved President Biden's $1.75 trillion Build Back Better bill.
This is the third leg of President Biden and the Democrats' agenda.
The first was the American Rescue Plan last March with its vaccination program, extended unemployment benefits and those monthly child tax payments.
Then came the just-passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill to rebuild America's physical infrastructure.
Now it's the Build Back Better plan aimed at human services.
"I think it's going to make a real difference for a lot of Pennsylvanians," U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, a Mt. Lebanon Democrat, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Friday.
Lamb voted yes, along with U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle and every Democrat save one and no Republicans.
Lamb cites lower health care costs and extended child tax credits as the principal reason for his yes vote.
"A lot of people talk about making health care cheaper. We did it. Build Back Better extends that for a decade. Likewise, the child tax credit, the largest tax cut we've seen for the middle class in a generation. This is money in your pocket," said Lamb.
Build Back Better extends those monthly checks for another year.
And Lamb says seniors will benefit, too.
"Medicare negotiating for the price of prescription drugs is probably one of the biggest," says Lamb. "Everybody knows that prescription drugs are too expensive. People on both sides of the political aisle have talked about fixing it. Again, this bill actually fixes it."
The bill also provides universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds, provides home health care for seniors and, for the first time ever, gives four weeks of paid medical leave for a newborn or an illness.
"These four weeks of leave can go a long way in helping families make ends meet in those moments when they need it most," says Dr. Heather Boushey, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisors.
As for local Republicans, they strongly criticized the bill as they voted no.
"A misguided, tone-deaf, socialist wish list," says U.S. Rep. John Joyce, a Bedford Republican.
"Wastes nearly $2 trillion at a time when our national debt is nearing $29 trillion," says U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, a Butler Republican.
"Socialist spending – money we do not have for policies Americans do not want," adds U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, a Peters Republican.
Democrats disagree, saying Americans want these programs.
As for the cost, Lamb says the bill pays for itself with taxes on the very rich. He questions the Congressional Budget Office's finding that the Build Back Better plan would add $160 billion to the deficit over the next ten years, noting the benefits outweigh any possible deficit.
Lamb says the CBO underestimates tax revenue from the wealthy, but notes, "Americans are going to spend -- I looked this up last night -- Americans are going spend more money on candy than $160 billion."
The measure now goes to the Senate where it needs all 50 Democrats to pass. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promises a Senate vote by Christmas.
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