WASHINGTON — Hawaii Rep. Ed Case finally made it to yes.
On Friday, the House passed a $1.75 trillion spending package that aims to strengthen social safety nets for children, combat climate change and reduce the cost of prescription medications for Medicare beneficiaries.
Case joined 219 of his Democratic colleagues in approving the so-called Build Back Better bill that is a pillar of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.
He also did not want a final vote on the reconciliation package until a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill was signed into law, which occurred earlier in the week. The infrastructure deal alone is expected to bring $2.8 billion to Hawaii, if not more, to improve the state’s roads, bridges and broadband capabilities.
In a lengthy written statement, Case explained his reasoning for finally backing the Build Back Better bill, describing its passage in the House as a “major milestone.”
“This vote to advance the Build Back Better Act to the Senate was one of the most consequential I will ever take,” Case said. “To get it right, for the last few months I have joined many colleagues in taking the time required to fully understand a complicated and often-changing 2,100-page bill, and to assure that it will actually deliver for those most in need and will be a responsible and sustainable investment of our nation’s financial resources.
“Among many critical provisions, the bill makes historic investments in combatting climate change, providing our keiki a better start in life, helping struggling families and lowering the costs of health care especially prescription drugs. Equally critically, it does so in a fiscally responsible way as the costs of these investments are largely paid for rather than borrowed and are responsibly and fairly allocated.”
Case’s position on Biden’s Build Back Better agenda has brought both praise and criticism.
He was one of only a handful of moderate Democrats — many of them facing tough contests for re-election in Republican-leaning districts — who delayed voting on the spending package until the infrastructure bill was passed and the Congressional Budget Office had an opportunity to review the long-term costs of the $1.75 trillion plan.
While his position was lauded by outside interest groups, such as the conservative leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce, it was pilloried by progressives, including those in Hawaii who are affiliated with the Green New Deal Network, which funded an advertising campaign in the islands targeting Case’s apprehension.
He also drew a progressive challenger in Sergio Alcubilla, a political newcomer who has already drawn the support of others from the party’s left flank, including former state senator Gary Hooser and former Hawaii Democratic Party chairman Tim Vandeveer.
Case was the only member of Hawaii’s four-person congressional delegation who had expressed doubts about the legislation. U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele was a vocal proponent of the bill as were U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono.
Kahele issued his own statement Friday in which he highlighted a number of provisions that would be directly beneficial to island residents, from increased funding for affordable housing and investments in indigenous language programs for Native Hawaiians to paid family medical leave for new parents and millions of dollars in new money to move individuals off of cesspools.
“This legislation delivers for Hawaiʻi,” Kahele said.
“Hawaiʻi is on the front lines of the climate crisis, the affordable housing crisis and crumbling infrastructure crisis. Our state needs these critical investments, and I applaud the House for passing the Build Back Better Act to make the robust and equitable investments our communities need.”
The fate of the legislation is now in the hands of the Senate, where moderate Democrats Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema will play an outsized role in dictating the size and scope of the bill due to the party’s razor thin majority.
Sign up for our FREE morning newsletter and face each day more informed.
Not a subscription
Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service.
That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.
Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.