House Democrats delayed a vote on President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy went on an hours-long diatribe against the bill in an attempt to force House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a vote on final passage in the wee hours of Friday morning.
The GOP leader began speaking against the bill around 8:40 p.m., and was still speaking well after 11:00 p.m. as he hammered the Biden administration and congressional Democrats for rising consumer prices and the bill’s supposed effects.
“If the Democrats won’t listen to our fellow citizens, they’ll have to listen here,” declared Mr McCarthy during the address.
The $1.7 trillion package focusing on issues including the expansion of pre-k and Medicare, he argued, was “[t]oo extreme, too costly, and too liberal for the United States”.
Mr McCarthy and Republicans have long argued that the inflation and rising gas prices around the country are the result of the Biden administration’s spending, referring to the Covid-19 relief plan passed earlier this year. On Thursday, he argued that the issues were about to worsen substantially as a result of the Build Back Better Act, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found on Sunday would increase the deficit by $367 billion. That number would be offset by increased enforcement by US tax authorities, part of the legislation, which the agency separately estimated could raise up to $207 billion in extra revenue over the same 10-year time frame.
“Inflation is becoming implanted in our economy,” the GOP leader declared.
At several points Democratic lawmakers could be heard in the chamber reacting with disgust or outrage to some of Mr McCarthy’s statements. In one particular moment in Mr McCarthy’s speech when the GOP leader suggested that Mr Biden had been left with everything he needed for “unprecedented success” by the Trump administration, several lawmakers could be heard reacting with shock and exasperation.
The Biden administration’s tenure so far, he added, amounted to “[t]he most radical, extreme, incompetent ten months in history”.
When Mr McCarthy suggested that voters did not elect Mr Biden to be [Franklin Delano Roosevelt], New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez exclaimed: “I did!”
Ohio Representative Joyce Beatty, the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said the number of Democrats — and the smaller number of GOP members — listening to Mr McCarthy reflected the Republican caucus’ lack of respect for him.
“There’s more Democrats on the floor than Republicans. So it says his own people aren’t through it. That tells you something. When our leadership speaks, we are there,” she said.
One Republican who did stay late for the speech, Rep Dan Newhouse, quipped to The Independent, “I have no idea”, when asked what the point or objective of Mr McCarthy’s speech was.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office released a statement as Mr McCarthy was still speaking, referring to the address as a “temper tantrum” and ripping the Republican leader for doing “everything he could do avoid talking about the deficit reducing, inflation crushing Build Back Better Act”.
“But he did make unhinged claims about what the American people want and need,” the Speaker’s office continued, before linking to a host of polls showing widespread support for some of the bill’s provisions.
“House Democrats are preparing to pass landmark legislation to lower costs, fight inflation and make big corporations and the wealthiest pay their fair share. But McCarthy is welcome to keep getting facts wrong on the House Floor,” said Ms Pelosi’s office.
As Mr McCarthy’s meandering remarks stretched past midnight on Thursday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office sent word that the House would recess when the Republican leader finished speaking.
Democrats plan to reconvene at 8.00 am on Friday to vote on Mr Biden’s signature legislation.
Georgia Representative Nikema Willams compared Mr McCarthy’s winding soliloquy to a child’s tantrum.
“I have a six-year-old and I see what happens when kids don’t get their way, they have a temper tantrum. and right now we’re seeing an epic meltdown on the house floor by Kevin McCarthy,” she said.