Building Support

Now awaiting Senate approval, Rep. Peter DeFazio said Biden administration’s Build Back Better legislation has some of the largest anti-poverty programs since LBJ’s Great Society

One way that Rep. Peter DeFazio describes President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act is by comparing it to former President Donald Trump’s tax cuts. 

Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 only benefited people making more than $400,000 a year and corporations, DeFazio said at a Nov. 22 press conference. 

But Biden’s $1.75 trillion social spending bill? It’s the inverse of Trump’s signature legislation, he added. 

“As written in the House, 95 percent of the benefits will flow to people who earn less than $400,000 a year,” said DeFazio, who’s also the chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “We’re turning what Trump did on its head. And we’re not borrowing to do it like he did.” 

On Nov. 19 the House of Representatives passed Build Back Better, a legislative package that DeFazio said would be the greatest anti-poverty legislation since former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society legislative agenda. Johnson is credited for creating Medicare and Medicaid and many other social programs still in use today. 

Three days later, at a virtual press conference that featured a panel of Oregon-based experts on subjects from child care to environment, DeFazio stressed the importance of what could be Biden’s signature legislation. 

“This is part two of the president’s plan to move America to the 21st century,” DeFazio said at the Nov. 22 virtual event. The first part, Biden’s infrastructure bill, was about physical infrastructure, he added. “This is the Build Back Better, a much larger investment when dealing with climate change but also a large investment in the social infrastructure of the United States of America, which lags behind the rest of the world.” 

Biden’s Build Back Better Act, which the House approved on party lines on Nov. 19, funds child care programs, lowers the cost of some prescription drugs, provides money to lower greenhouse gas emissions and more. It’s now awaiting Senate approval. 

One of the provisions in the Build Back Better legislative framework that DeFazio focused on was subsidizing child care. “An average Oregonian with two young kids pays 19 percent of their income on child care, per year,” he said. “This bill would say you would pay no more than 7 percent of your income for quality child care. This will cover nine out of 10 children in the state.” 

Andrea Paluso is the executive director of Family Forward Oregon, a caregiver grassroots organization. Paluso spoke at the press conference and said the legislation in Build Back Better provides “critically overdue” investments in child care, pre-kindergarten and elder care. “We cannot come back equitably from the COVID health and economic crisis in a way that reaches all of our communities without the investments in Build Back Better,” she said. 

Paluso said the legislation provides affordable and quality child care to many families. “This will be a huge financial relief for families in Oregon, where the average annual cost for child care is over $10,000 a year,” she said. “Care work is the work that makes all other work possible. With these investments, the Build Back Better act helps us build an equitable recovery for women who simply cannot work or stay working if they don’t have access to child care.” 

When Biden signed the infrastructure bill into law Nov. 15, DeFazio said it didn’t go far enough for climate change-related investments. But at the Nov. 22 press conference, he and others spoke highly about the climate provisions in Build Back Better. 

Environment Oregon State Director Celeste Meiffren-Swango said after 18 months of record-breaking drought, heat and wildfires in Oregon, the advocacy group was happy to see the House pass the legislation, which she called the largest federal investment in climate solutions. 

Among the bill’s provisions are incentives for people to lower their greenhouse gas emissions. Meiffren-Swango pointed to an extension of the 10-year extension and expansion of the U.S.’s clean energy incentives. The bill has provisions that include decreasing the cost of installing solar panels, providing Americans with up to $12,500 on electric vehicles through rebates and offering incentives for e-bikes. 

DeFazio said Build Back Better is a reconciliation bill, so the Senate needs a simple majority to pass it rather than a two-thirds. But he added that the Democrats need all 50 senators to vote in favor of it, hinting at the party’s trouble of having senators. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia fall in line in the past. 

But DeFazio expressed optimism for the bill’s future. 

“Let’s make it a year-end gift for America,” DeFazio said about Build Back Better as he ended the press conference. 

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