Florida Democrats celebrating Build Back Better

Rep. Val Demings
After a nearly four-month debate and negotiation, House Democrats have their bill.

The four-month struggle to get President Joe Biden‘s Build Back Better Act through the U.S. House of Representatives is being met with met with joy, relief, and acceptance by Florida’s Democratic members after the House approved the bill Friday.

Republicans, meanwhile, continued to denounce the bill as a mistake, full of what they call socialism. They awaited prospects that the Senate, with one or two moderate Democrats defecting, could stop it even though Biden and the Democrats managed to short-circuit chances of a filibuster by fashioning the bill as a filibuster-proof budget reconciliation.

Orlando Democratic Rep. Val Demings, an early and loud cheerleader for the bill that had started as $3.5 trillion in spending then was whittled to about half that, hailed the bill as a tax cut for the middle class that would also expand health care, child care, senior care, education, and housing services.

“Here’s what you need to know: Build Back Better will cut your taxes, reduce your household costs, and create new jobs for Floridians, and it is fully paid for with no new taxes for middle class families,” Demings declared in a statement issued Friday morning, shortly after the largely partisan passage of the bill. “Our mission is clear: to put money in the pockets of working families, dramatically reduce the cost of things that keep Floridians up at night, and get people back to work. No new middle class taxes. No deficit increase. Just long overdue changes to make our economy fair for people who have to go to work every day

“During the debate over this legislation, I thought of my parents, who played by the rules and worked hard as a maid, janitor, and in other odd jobs nearly every day of their lives. I thought of my own journey to become the first in my family to go to college, keeping track of every dollar and working fast food jobs to pay my way,” Demings continued. “That American Dream story is becoming out of reach for millions of Floridians. We need to rebuild an economy where hard work actually gets you ahead, not one where health care, child care, senior care, housing and education take every dollar you make.”

By contrast, Republican Rep. Michael Waltz of St. Augustine Beach predicted the bill would “forever tarnish” Democratic lawmakers who voted for it by tying them to the federal deficit and the nation’s inflation.

“This bill will add trillions of dollars to our national debt and drive our existing social programs towards bankruptcy even faster. We already hold $29 trillion in federal debt, spent nearly $5 trillion in COVID-19 relief over the last two years ($1 trillion is still unspent), and President Biden signed a $1 trillion spending bill earlier this week. Now, Nancy Pelosi is passing a tax and spend bill that will cost $4 trillion and add $367 billion to the deficit,” Waltz argued. “Inflation is rapidly rising nationwide, which has directly led to increased prices on goods across America, including in the grocery store and at the gas pump.”

Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston called the bill “once in a generation legislation” and predicted it would make “immediate and sizable positive impacts on the lives of Florida’s seniors, families and businesses.”

“I proudly rise to support the largest investment in America’s working families, to the human safety net, and to protection of the planet, since FDR’s new deal,” she declared on the House floor.

But Rep. Brian Mast, a Stuart Republican, trashed the spending package. “This bill would create 150 new government programs, spend nearly $2 trillion dollars and aim to make the American people dependent on politicians from the moment they’re born to the moment they die. It is a socialist dream and an American disaster,” he tweeted. “The socialist spending bill just passed without any bipartisan support goes against everything that makes our nation great: it’s more government, more taxes and less freedom.”

Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, a Miami Republican, agreed. “As Americans face the highest rate of inflation in 30 years, House Democrats just passed one of the biggest tax increases in history,” she posted. “The White House said their #BuildBackBroke agenda would cost $0, but that proved to be false. House Dems passed this bill based on a lie. Shame.”

Tampa Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor issued an extended statement of the legislation as well. “We made a promise to our neighbors that we would Build Back Better in the wake of the Covid19 pandemic. The past two years have underscored the urgent, tangible needs of Florida families and small business owners – access to quality, affordable health care and child care, good-paying jobs, clean air to breathe and clean water to drink, and affordable housing. Today’s passage of the Build Back Better Act is a historic step towards bolstering our economy and making our government work for all Americans once more. The benefits will be felt across the Tampa Bay area,” she said in part.

“This means providing universal, high-quality pre-kindergarten to 3 and 4-year-olds, expanding affordable health care and lowering costs to millions of Floridians, lowering the costs of prescription drugs, improving Medicare, making the single largest and most comprehensive investment in affordable housing in history, extending the tax cut for most families with children, and much more. While making monumental progress for families and working Americans, the Build Back Better Act lowers costs and fights inflation because it is fully paid for by making big corporations and the wealthiest pay their fair share. No one making under $400,000 will pay a penny more in taxes.”

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park late Thursday announced her intention to vote for the bill. Her support could be critical as the head of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition. “Despite its flaws, the Build Back Better Act has a lot of positive elements. It contains historic investments to combat climate change, an existential threat to our planet, our country, and the Florida way of life,” Murphy said.

“It includes a historic agreement I helped negotiate to significantly lower the price of prescription drugs for consumers without impairing the ability of America’s scientists and researchers to create new medicines. And the bill contains a number of important provisions to empower families, like extending affordable health care to 425,000 Floridians in the Medicaid coverage gap, establishing universal Pre-K, and extending the enhanced child tax credit for an additional year.”

Rep. Lois Frankel, a West Palm Bech Democrat, heralded the bill for helping women and families.

““Today is a historic and exciting day for families across America,” she said. “Now that this transformational bill has passed the House, we are one step closer to delivering on the President’s promise to Build Back Better. This bill is a once-in-a-generation investment in the care economy, universal pre-K education, paid leave, clean energy, and lower health care costs, all being fully paid for by making sure big corporations & the wealthiest pay their fair share of taxes.  I urge the Senate to take up and pass this bill immediately.”

Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg heralded the bill as relief for the problems of rising gas prices and supply chain shortages.

“I could not be more proud to say that help is on the way! This historic Build Back Better Act is a once-in-a-generation investment in families, communities, and a stronger middle class,” Crist declared. “For decades, lobbyists and their special interests get what they need, while the middle class and workers don’t get a fair shake.

Crist cited a half-dozen provisions in the act: extension of the American Rescue Plan’s Child Tax Credit; universal, high-quality and free preschool for 3- and 4-year-ods; capping child care costs at 7% of income for low-income and middle class families; increasing Pell Grants for college students; improving senior care by providing $150 billion toward clearing home and community are waiting lists; providing $555 billion for clean energy and climate initiatives.

During a floor speech, Democratic Rep. Darren Soto of Kissimmee declared, “Democrats deliver for the American people… again. Democrats deliver for Central Florida… again. Lowering prescription drug prices and capping costs for seniors, extending Child Tax Credit payments, paid family leave, and lower childcare costs for Central Florida families. Providing nearly one million Floridians with an expansion of the ACA, boosting affordable housing, immigration reform, the largest effort to combat climate change in history. And unlike the GOP tax scam that busted the deficit by $400 billion and $4 trillion in debt, we pay for ours with major corporations and the wealthy paying their fair share. The Republicans are doing nothing but divide, the Democrats are delivering for America. I yield back.”

But many Florida Republicans question the bill’s chances in the Senate before it reaches Biden’s desk.

“They’re clapping and cheering because they just passed a bill that’s going to kill the American dream, send us further into debt, and cripple our economy,” tweeted Rep. Kat Cammack, a Gainesville Republican. “As I said earlier, good luck in the Senate.”

Democratic Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee cited several provisions from expanded rental assistance to closing the Medicaid gap.

“I am confident that the Build Back Better Act will improve the livelihoods for North Florida families by providing tax cuts, expanding access to affordable health care, tackling climate change, expanding broadband and bolstering our economy,”Lawson stated. “The pandemic has exacerbated the disparities that have been present in our communities for decades. This legislation will bring down costs that have held Americans back and extend equity to help working families succeed.”

Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis said he voted no, in part because the latest estimates say the bill would increase the national debt b y $367 billion over ten years.

“My constituents and countless small businesses in my district are already suffering due to the reckless behavior of this administration and congressional Democrats. They are grappling with government intrusion into all aspects of their lives, spending more on everything due to skyrocketing inflation, and seeing unnecessary delays due to the national supply chain shortage,” Bilirakis. “The items funded in this bill do not reflect the priorities and values of my constituents. This package also does not offer the solutions American families need to the real challenges they are facing. In fact, many of its provisions will only make their situations worse, which is why I voted no!”

Staff Reports


2 comments

  • zhombre

    November 19, 2021 at 11:14 am

    Wait a year.

    • Evan

      November 19, 2021 at 11:15 am

      $10 per gallon for gas.

Comments are closed.


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