House Passes the Historic Build Back Better Act: “A Giant Step Forward”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi after the House passed Biden’s Build Back Better bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. (C-SPAN)

On Friday, the House passed President Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) Act—the largest expansion of the U.S. social safety net since the 1960s. The bill includes elements that feminists have worked literally decades for:

  • historic investments in child care, paid family and medical leave; 
  • universal pre-kindergarten for every 3- and 4-year-old in the country; and 
  • an extension of the child tax credit that has already cut child poverty in half this year. 

Additionally, the BBB expands the Pell Grants program for college, and makes significant investments in fighting climate change.

“The Build Back Better Act is passed,” Pelosi announced after the vote. She was met with cheering and chants of “Nancy! Nancy! Nancy!” from House Democrats.

The bill, which passed largely along party lines 220 to 213, represents “a giant step forward,” said President Biden in a statement. “Above all, it puts us on the path to build our economy back better than before by rebuilding the backbone of America: working people and the middle class.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi fought the proposals through to victory early on Friday—despite last-minute delay tactics overnight by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Now the legislation moves to the Senate where the paid leave provision has been a sticking point for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Recent polling from Global Strategy Group and the Paid Leave for All Campaign documents that majorities of voters want paid leave included in Build Back Better, particularly voters living in battleground states. This support extends to one key demographic—suburban women, who were called a “​​must-win audience in the wake of Virginia’s elections” in a memo attached to the poll.

Five days ago, Biden signed the BBB’s partner legislation: a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill aimed at rebuilding America’s roads and bridges and expanding broadband internet access.

The BBB bill is “monumental, it’s historic, it’s transformative, it’s bigger than anything we’ve ever done,” Pelosi said at a press conference. “We will be telling our children and grandchildren that we were here this day.”

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Katherine Spillar is the executive director of Feminist Majority Foundation and executive editor of Ms., where she oversees editorial content and the Ms. in the Classroom program.