Several swing-district House Democrats pledged to vote against President Joe Biden's social spending bill if it failed to meet certain fiscal parameters. When those contingencies were not met, they supported the bill anyway.
In September, Rep. Kurt Schrader (D., Ore.) said Biden's bill "would have to be way under $1 trillion" for him to "get remotely interested" in backing it. Less than two months later, Schrader said he was "proud" to pass the $1.75 trillion piece of legislation, which he called "landmark" and "transformational."
Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D., Mich.) Henry Cuellar (D., Texas), and Stephanie Murphy (D., Fla.), meanwhile, said they would not support the bill if it was not "fully paid for." But just hours after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office determined the legislation would increase the federal budget deficit by $160 billion, all three Democrats voted to support it.
The four Democrats' decisions to support Biden's bill despite their stated misgivings could complicate their efforts to navigate complicated reelection bids in 2022. According to a November Trafalgar Poll, 52 percent of likely voters believe the legislation will "be hurtful to America's economic recovery," while just 38 percent said it "will be helpful." Biden's standing among the American public also plummeted—just 38 percent of registered voters approve of the Democrat's presidency, a November Quinnipiac poll shows.
Republican groups predicted that the votes would spell political doom for Democrats in next year's midterm elections. American Action Network spokeswoman Cally Perkins said Murphy "broke her word to her constituents, plain and simple."
"Congresswoman Murphy knew this bill was far from fully paid for, knew it would make skyrocketing prices worse while raising taxes on middle-class families, and she voted for it anyway," Perkins said in a statement. "Murphy continues to say one thing in Florida and do another in Washington, and her constituents won't soon forget it."
Schrader, Slotkin, and Murphy did not return requests for comment. Cuellar spokeswoman Dana Youngentob pointed the Washington Free Beacon to a November tweet and two recent statements that praise the bill and do not address the Congressional Budget Office assessment.
While the Congressional Budget Office is the premier agency when it comes to assessing a bill's fiscal implications, outside groups have also found that the bill is not "fully paid for." The Penn Wharton Budget Model and Commerce for a Responsible Federal Budget determined it would add $275 billion and $200 billion to the nation's debt, respectively.
The White House disagrees, arguing the bill would instead reduce the deficit by $112 billion. The conflicting assessments stem from a dispute over how much money the federal government would raise from increasing the IRS's funding by $80 billion, a 70 percent increase aimed at beefing up tax enforcement. The White House believes that provision would net $400 billion in revenue. The Congressional Budget Office believes it would net just $207 billion.
In addition to increased IRS funding, the bill also includes a half-trillion-dollar tax cut for the wealthy, a plan Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) called "bad politics" and "bad policy." The bill will now proceed to the Senate after just one House Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden (Maine), voted against it.