10 OVERLOOKED THINGS IN THE BUILD BACK BETTER
By Lisa Desjardins, @LisaDNews
Catching our breath after last week’s dizzying ride in the House of Representatives, here is where things stand in our bicameral representative government:
The $1.2 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the largest of its kind in U.S. history, received final passage. It’s at the president’s desk.
The Build Back Better bill, which contains much of the Biden and Democratic agenda, is now on its own separate track from infrastructure. House members have agreed on the rules for debate. But Democratic moderates are waiting for an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office on how much it will cost.
In the House, Democrats hope to pass their version of the bill next week.
In the Senate, Democrats would take the bill from the House and begin the complex process of moving, and possibly changing, the legislation in that chamber.
When could it reach the White House? In all, Democrats may hope to pass Build Back Better into law by Thanksgiving, but the current trajectory puts it much more clearly on pace for mid-December.
In August, we ran a series looking at what the infrastructure bill — which passed the Senate this summer and passed the House last Friday — would do in four areas: surface transportation, water, climate and broadband internet. (See links for each of those segments.)
Now we can dig in a little and delve into its sister bill, “Build Back Better.”
Many topline items in the current draft are known: It would provide universal pre-K, create new child care supports for families and facilities, mandate four weeks of paid family leave, tackle the cost of prescription drugs, dramatically expand affordable housing and spend hundreds of billions to fight climate change. The proposal pays for this by raising taxes, primarily on large corporations and wealthy individuals.
But as we go through this sweeping plan, it is impossible to ignore that it is packed with literally hundreds and hundreds of programs. We want to raise a few that are less well known.
A warning that all of these things are subject to tweaks or changes ahead, most likely when and if the Senate gets the bill. Here we go:
Down payments for first-time, first-generation homebuyers. An example of a significant program not getting attention is the $10 billion in funding for down payments for first-time, first-generation home buyers. The bill would provide either $20,000 or 10 percent of the home cost, whichever is greater.
Protecting old forests and at-risk animals in forests. Build Back Better would spend $50 million to survey and protect some of America’s oldest forests and another $50 million to help at-risk species that live in the National Forest System. While not specifically tied to climate risks in the legislation, the changing climate has affected both the land itself, including fires threatening giant sequoias this year, but also some animals that call it home.
Planting new trees. The bill would launch more than $3.5 billion in grants to states and other entities to buy land for the purpose of planting trees, and then to get them in the ground. The idea is directly related to climate and carbon capture, which trees do naturally.
ABCs. There is also $700 million in this version of BBB for adult literacy efforts across the country.
Mom and baby health. To address U.S. issues with maternal and newborn health, Build Back Better would spend $170 million on nursing schools to grow and diversify the workforce in both areas.
Health for 9/11 workers. A full $2.86 billion in the proposal would go to addressing a funding shortfall in the 9/11 World Trade Center Health Program, which affects the care of some 110,000 people. The money will also cover the10 percent of program costs contributed by New York City.
No more drilling in ANWR. The bill would repeal sections of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that allowed for oil and gas exploration in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.
Electric-powered mail delivery. As part of its push for cleaner vehicles and energy, Build Back Better funds nearly $6 billion for the U.S. Postal Service to remake its fleet with electric vehicles and charging stations.
Electric bicycles. The bill is full of tax incentives for renewable energy for homes, businesses, government and transportation. Tucked among them is a credit of up to $1,500 for electric bicycles! Whee! This benefit is limited by income, phasing out starting at $75,000 of annual income for an individual and $150,000 for a married couple filing jointly.
Icebreaker. Also in here is $350 million for a new Great Lakes icebreaker for the Coast Guard. Meaning, the megaton kind of icebreaker. The military branch currently has just two large icebreakers in its fleet, an increasing problem as ice flows and masses increasingly melt and shift in the north.
THREE OVERLOOKED POLITICAL STORIES FROM THE PAST WEEK
By Saher Khan, @SaherMKhan
Gun control legislation isn’t going to happen. Here’s what Biden’s doing instead – Nov. 5. While lawmakers and activists who have pushed for greater firearm restrictions are frustrated by the lack of gun control proposals from President Joe Biden, they’re encouraged by a $5 billion plan to fund community violence intervention programs designed to break cycles of violence by connecting individuals to social services such as trauma counseling, and employment and educational opportunities. Why it matters: Activists on the ground point to a large body of research showing how effective this kind of funding can be in helping young people cope with the trauma of gun violence. But the latest funding proposal is tethered to the House “Build Back Better” bill, which still needs Senate approval. – Politico
Despite Restraints, Democrats’ Drug Pricing Plan Could Still Aid Consumers – Nov. 5. Progressives’ robust plan for allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices was blocked by moderates in recent negotiations around “Build Back Better,” but the narrower policy would still bring down the cost of 10 of the most expensive drugs by 2025 and would make insulin no more than $35 a month. Why it matters: This is a huge win in particular for people with diabetes, who have faced rising costs over the last several years for the life-saving drug. – Kaiser Health News
Democrats search for political identity amid dismal election results and legislative triumph – Nov. 7. In interviews with the Washington Post after this month’s major losses, Democratic voters in New Jersey and Virginia shared why they don’t feel like they have a political home — and how that might affect their future decisions on the ballot. Why it matters: Election losses this month were a warning sign to many lawmakers and party leaders that Democrats’ big tent, home to progressives and moderates alike, is struggling to find a common message for its ideologically diverse constituents. This could pose even more significant problems for the party come next year, when its House majority is on the line. – The Washington Post