The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act last week.
The $1.7 trillion social spending plan has been a centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda. The bill includes $380 billion for child care and education, $555 billion for climate change and clean energy investments, $205 billion to provide all workers with four weeks of paid family and medical leave and $170 billion for the construction or improvement of affordable housing units across the country.
“For too long, the economy has worked great for those at the top while working families get squeezed,” a statement from the White House said. “President Biden promised to rebuild the backbone of the country — the middle class — so that this time everyone comes along. The Build Back Better Framework does just that.”
Franklin County’s delegate in the House of Representatives, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, disagreed with the White House’s assessment, calling the bill “an overreach” and “a disaster” before casting his no vote.
“It’s going to bankrupt us,” he said. “And it’s going to cause stagflation, and it’s going to cause inflation.”
He compared what he anticipated the effects of the bill would be to inflation seen during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. “This is a step backward in my mind,” he said. “This is not a good bill from the standpoint of improving our economy.”
A lot of the bill deals with mitigating climate change, but Luetkemeyer said he doesn’t think this bill is the way to do that. He takes biggest issue with the bill’s ambitions to build a network of electric vehicle charging stations across the country, which he felt was “backwards” given that there aren’t that many electric vehicles on the road yet.
“They’re trying to build an electric charging station network for 2 percent of cars,” he said. “Why don’t you go out and make the gas pump more environmentally friendly for the other 98 percent of cars on the road?”
As an alternative to fight climate change, he mentioned a tree-planting project but said since Republicans are in the minority in the house, it won’t get passed.
He also isn’t a fan of the bill’s plans to strengthen child care and preschool.
“I believe that all the education stuff should be as local as you can get it,” he said. “Anytime you have a (federal) government program, even in education, there are strings attached to that program. And that gives the federal government, or whoever is in charge, the ability to manipulate the people or entities that are taking advantage of the program or are part of the program.”
He especially doesn’t like that the bill would increase Medicaid. “If you put the government in charge of your health care, guess what?” he said. “You have to have the government in charge of your life.”
The bill, which passed the House, 220-213, now goes to the Senate, where it will likely see intense debate and significant change.
Missouri’s senators aren’t on board.
“I think any reasonable person who looks at the Build Back Better plan, with its tax on middle class families, canceling of our energy independence and provisions that give welfare benefits to illegal immigrants, would not support it,” Sen. Josh Hawley said in a statement to The Missourian. “But this is entirely up to the Democrats. They are committed to passing this without a single Republican vote or giving Republicans any meaningful say in the process. At a time when Americans can’t even afford to fill up their gas tanks, Joe Biden and the Democrats’ solution is to make us more dependent on foreign oil. It’s complete insanity.”
In a speech on the Senate floor about the matter, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt honed in on inflation.
“In October, inflation rose 6.2 percent over the cost a year ago,” he said. “That’s the highest increase in inflation in 30 years. A lot of Americans alive today, certainly a lot of Americans who are in the workforce today, don’t remember the inflation of the ’70s and the early ’80s that made it just hard for families to keep up, made it hard for families to buy a house, made it hard for families to pay the basic bills. I hope that we’re not going to get a strong reminder of that. But it certainly looks like we are.”
Blunt said he felt that this Build Back Better Act would exacerbate the issue.
“If we do more of the same, we’re going to get more of the same,” he said. “And more of what’s happening right now is not what the people we work for need or deserve. And I hope we get serious about the things that our actions create.”