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US Rep Richard Neal hails passage of Build Back Better Act after a ‘pretty remarkable week’ in Washington

SPRINGFIELD — Fresh from a long night of managing debate and securing passage of the $2 trillion Build Back Better Act, U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal explained Friday afternoon the impact of what he called once-in-a-lifetime legislation.


“It’s a really terrific piece of substantive work,” said Neal, D-Springfield.


He hosted a press conference at the federal courthouse in Springfield at 3:45 p.m., just after returning from Washington.


“Here we stand,”  Neal said. “A pretty remarkable week by any standard.”


Friday morning’s vote followed Neal’s visit Monday to the White House both to talk over legislative priorities and to watch President Joe Biden sign into law a separate $1 trillion infrastructure bill. As chairman of the powerful tax-writing House Committee on Ways and Means, Neal and his committee shaped big portions of both legislative packages.


Build Back Better addresses longstanding Democratic priorities in health, education and child care. It builds off the transportation, broadband internet and clean energy provision of the infrastructure bill.


Neal said the infrastructure bill, with its $66 billion for Amtrak, presents the best opportunity to get east-west passenger rail established from Boston through Worcester and Springfield and on to Pittsfield.


The Build Back Better Act must go now to a closely divided Senate. But Neal said he’s hopeful of its passage. He said the bill has been “scrubbed” to meet Senate rules on reconciliation measures.


For health care, Build Back Better empowers Medicare to negotiate drug prices for seniors, expands Medicare hearing care, and creates a cap of $2,000 on out-of-pocket prescriptions expenses for seniors in Medicare Part D. It caps insulin costs at $35 per month, for example.


“That’s a huge, huge success,” Neal said.


For families, the law could save most families more than half their current spending on child care, ensuring the vast majority of families will have to pay no more than 7% of their income for the service.


This, Neal said, is a huge factor in getting women back into the workforce.


The new law adds universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds.


Build Back Better also has a universal and permanent paid family and medical leave program, providing four weeks of paid parental, family caregiving and medical leave.


There was some argument in the House over the mechanics of the paid family leave program, involving whether to have it paid through Social Security or have the government work through employer insurance programs. Neal said Friday the final bill has a mix of both, a balance that includes working with corporations that have already set up paid family leave programs paid for with insurance.


Build Back Better gives more than 35 million families a major tax cut by extending the Child Tax Credit.


And, Neal said, the bill keeps that tax credit refundable, meaning parents get the money sent to them. The program, passed earlier this year as part of COVID relief, has already cut childhood poverty by more than 30%.


“We reward going to work,” Neal said of the tax credit.


Neal said the bill also expands programs at community colleges that retrain workers following job loss. It invests $555 billion over 10 years in historic clean energy and climate investments.


Neal said the this legislation is fully paid for, which will both grow the economy and fight inflation. According to the estimates of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the U.S. Treasury, Build Back Better even reduces the deficit by more than $100 billion over the first 10 years.


It does that in part by funding the IRS with $80 billion over 10 years to add more tax attorneys and enforcement capabilities and go after nearly $500 billion in forgone revenue. Those estimates came through the office of IRS commissioner Charles P. Rettig, a Republican appointed by the former president, Neal said.


The Build Back Better Act adopts a 15% country-by-country minimum tax on foreign profits. Neal said this will stop “treaty shopping,” the practice of companies searching out the lowest tax rates when it comes time to report profits.


“The only people who say it won’t work are those who don’t want it to work,” Neal said.

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