House Passes BBB, but Senate May Not Pass before Yearend
November 22, 2021
By a narrow 220-213 vote margin, the House passed President Biden’s $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376) to create clean energy incentives, four weeks of paid parental and medical leave, child care aid, universal preschool, and Medicare drug price negotiations. President Joe Biden lauded the legislation to “boost the capacity of our economy and reduce costs for millions of families.” The bill now moves to the Senate, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wants to pass the legislation by Christmas, but as Politico reports, “standing in his way is the chamber's long to-do list, its rules referee, and — more likely than not — Joe Manchin.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called the legislation "monumental, it's historic, it's transformative, it's bigger than anything we've ever done," at a press conference shortly after Friday morning’s vote. The 220-213 vote was supported by all Democrats, except for Rep. Jaren Golden (D-ME). No Republicans voted for the bill, which was delayed from a planned-Thursday evening vote by an eight-and a half hour speech by House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in opposition to the legislation.
BBB seeks to tackle a host of Democratic priorities on health care, education, and climate change and is a centerpiece of President Biden’s economic agenda. Axios offers a brief state-of-play, while Bloomberg BGov provides additional detail about the Reconciliation Bill in this PowerPoint deck, including an overview of the bill’s costs and offsets, key policy provisions, and proposals that were dropped or scaled back.
Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO’s) Official Cost Estimate
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) last Thursday issued a long-awaited estimate that the bill will cause a net increase in the deficit of $367 billion from fiscal 2022 through 2031, as a result of $1.64 trillion in spending increases that are offset by $1.27 trillion in additional revenue. For technical reasons, the CBO’s estimate did not include $207 billion in revenue that the nonpartisan agency separately estimated would result from pouring roughly $80 billion into tax-enforcement efforts at the IRS, reports The Wall Street Journal.
House’s Build Back Better (BBB) Heads to the Senate
The legislation now moves to the Senate where “timing for Biden's signature legislation will also depend on when the Senate parliamentarian finishes the so-called “Byrd Bath” process, under which she determines whether key components of the bill have direct budgetary effect and can therefore pass the Senate with a simple majority,” as Politico reports.
This week Democrats will begin presenting their arguments to the parliamentarian, and several provisions in the House bill are expected to change or get stripped entirely in the Senate, including:
- Paid leave – House Democrats included a paid family leave provision, despite opposition by centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to including the policy in the package.
- SALT Tax Deduction – Senate Democrats are divided over a provision that raises the cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions, which primarily affects high-cost states, such as New York, New Jersey, and California. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) are trying to limit SALT relief for wealthy taxpayers and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) is opposed to any SALT relief.
- Immigration – the bill’s immigration reform sections still need to pass muster with the parliamentarian, who has axed Democrats earlier attempts at including immigration measures in a reconciliation bill.
Democrats are also watching for the amendments Republicans offer in the so-called ‘vote-a-rama’ process, which is a staple of legislation that moves through the Senate via the budget reconciliation process.
To refresh, reconciliation is a means for Congress to enact legislation on taxes, spending, and the debt limit; it requires only a majority (51 votes or 50 if the vice president breaks a tie) in the Senate and side-steps the threat of a filibuster, which requires 60 votes to overcome. Reconciliation is an expedited way to advance certain bills, such as Build Back Better. Key to reconciliation is that it can be used to pass legislation related to government spending or taxes and can’t add to the national deficit after the first decade.
While reconciliation allows bills to advance with 50 votes, it also allows senators (including those in the minority party) to offer unlimited amendments. If Republicans can peel off Senator Manchin on some of the amendments, it could drastically change the legislation. Click here
for more background information on the reconciliation process.