In what is likely to be a long fall involving infrastructure, reconciliation, and appropriations, the Senate took its first significant steps late last week with the announcement of a bipartisan infrastructure deal.
On late Wednesday, July 28, a deal to address the nation’s infrastructure was announced, and a vote to move forward on the still-developing legislation received 17 Republican votes joining all 48 Democrats and two Independents. The 67 senators who voted yes are not obligated to support the final deal, but it is a positive sign. It should also add to the likelihood that the Democrats can keep all 50 senators together to approve a bigger bill to address the human infrastructure that could include an extension of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), universal child care, paid family and medical leave and two years of free college education among its provisions.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Act totals $550 billion in new spending and extends another approximate $450 billion to address roads, bridges, mass transit, airports, improvements in drinking water systems, the electric grid, the expansion of internet access, and a series of environmental improvements services. The agreement is fully paid for according to the deal through the use of unused pandemic relief funds ($205 billion), unused unemployment compensation funds ($53 billion), various fees, cost savings through Medicare prescription drugs, fraud prevention, the extension of the sequestration, and spectrum auctions and other government sales.
While it is an “infrastructure” bill, it includes several provisions that will help some of the most impoverished families. The President has said that the $55 billion for drinking water improvements will allow the replacement of all pipes containing lead, an issue that impacts many poor areas (e.g., Flint, MI). It also provides $65 billion for “broadband” expansion, which means many poor areas, especially rural areas, will get access to the internet.
At the same time, as this deal was moving forward, the Senate was moving forward on a budget resolution that could allow Congress to address the other parts of the President’s American Family Plan. That $3.5 trillion package will require all 50 Democrats to stick together, and there is likely to be several senators positioning and making statements over the next several weeks on their top concerns as the negotiations move forward. The biggest piece of that reconciliation will likely be the extension of the CTC, a major expansion of child care, the creation of paid family and medical leave, some measure of free college education such as two years of community college, health-related provisions that could expand the ACA and Medicare as well as several smaller pieces. There are also likely to be tax changes that did not make it into the infrastructure deal, such as higher corporate tax rates and higher income taxes for people making more than $400,000. All of that will have to be carefully blended.
For CWLA, one of our top priorities will be the CTC and making it permanent, refundability, and expansions to key groups such as children in mixed-status families and families in Puerto Rico. Another area of priority is an expansion of child care to move it more toward universality.
All of these considerations have to be negotiated, passed by a Senate with 50 votes, and have the support of House Democrats.