House Democrats in swing districts hope that passing their social welfare legislation will help salvage their majority in what will likely be a tough year for Democrats.
Democrats passed the $1.75 trillion bill, sometimes called the Build Back Better bill, on a largely party-line vote. The bill includes provisions to combat climate change, an expanded child tax credit, home and community-based services for elderly people and people with disabilities, universal child care and universal pre-K education, among other aspects.
The bill will now go to the Senate and comes on the heels of President Joe Biden signing a bipartisan infrastructure bill on Monday that passed the House earlier this month.
Rep Sean Patrick Maloney, who is chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said he thinks the law could help Democrats keep their majority in 2022.
“People are going to love when they learn about it,” he told reporters. “I think doing good things is good politics.”
Rep Cindy Axne, who represents a district in Iowa that voted for Donald Trump twice, said “hell yes, I’m a yes on this bill,” she was going to vote for the bill on Thursday evening. When asked by The Independent whether she would campaign on the legislation, she said: “Absolutely, and I will have the president right next to me.”
This comes despite the fact a recent poll from The Des Moines Register and Mediacom found that only 33 percent of Iowans surveyed approved of Mr Biden’s performance as president and 62 percent disapproved. The state legislature recently approved of a new congressional map proposed by the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, which Gov Kim Reynolds signed.
Rep Stephanie Murphy of Florida, who is co-chairwoman of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition and was one of a few moderates who had initially wanted to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill separate from the Build Back Better bill, said she would also campaign on the bipartisan bill.
“I think the idea that Democrats were able to deliver infrastructure investments, which for decades both Republicans and Democrats had promised but were unable to but were able to do it in this administration in this Congress is incredibly compelling,” she said. “Those investments are critically important. Let’s see when and if this bill becomes law. What I’m running on is things that we actually get across the finish line and makes a difference in the lives of my constituents.”
Ms Murphy was part of a handful of moderate Democrats who wanted there to be a score from the Congressional Budget Office before a vote on the legislation. Ms Murphy faces redistricting in a state where the GOP controls both houses of the state legislature and Gov Ron DeSantis is also a Republican.
House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth of Kentucky, who is retiring this year, said he was not so sure the Build Back Better bill would yield gains.
“Ultimately, we still have to describe to the American people what this means to them and to be honest, I’m a little bit skeptical as to whether politically we can gain a lot from this bill, I think we gain a lot more from the infrastructure bill,” he told The Independent. “Because we’ll see the impact much quicker.”
Mr Yarmuth added that what matters is whether Democrats can effectively communicate some of the benefits of child care, pre-K, home care, reducing the cost of drugs and hearing aids for seniors.
“We got a pretty good case to make if we can make it effectively,” he said.
But not all members from swing districts are confident. Rep Jared Golden of Maine, the sole Democrat to oppose the legislation, told The Bangor Daily News he would oppose the legislation largely because the bill would raise a cap on deductions for state and local taxes, which he saw as a giveaway to the rich.
It’s a line Rep Peter Meijer, a Republican from Michigan, repeated to The Independent.
“Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi wants me to pay less in taxes,” he said. Mr Meijer comes from a wealthy family that founded a chain of stores. “I can’t believe that my colleague Ms [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez isn’t tearing up her dress in frustration.”
Similarly, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy delivered an hours-long speech as he hopes to become House Speaker in the next Congress, calling the bill “ [too] extreme, too costly, and too liberal for the United States”.
Republican Rep Mike Garcia of California, who won a special election last year in a seat that was held by a Democrat and then won another election for a full term on Election Day despite Mr Biden winning it, criticised Democrats for the bill and said he’d run against policies like it.
“They’re running with scissors and in this case, it’s our economy that they’re trying to kill here,” he told The Independent. “It’s not about running against the Democrats, it’s about running against people who are leading our country and don’t understand what they’re doing, the mechanics of the economy and they’re literally threatening the existence of the United States.”
Rep Dean Phillips, who beat a Republican incumbent in Minnesota’s 3rd district during the 2018 Democratic wave, said it was possible it might cause some harm for Democrats.
“History might indicate it might be difficult for Democrats because of it,” he told The Independent ahead of the vote. “But I, like most of my colleagues, came here to do what’s in the best interest of the country, and if it means that I lose my job because of it, so be it. It’s the right thing to do and that’s why most of us are here and that’s why I’m proud.”