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Democratic Leaders Seek Path Forward on Infrastructure and Reconciliation Packages

October 1, 2021

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CONTACTS
Christa Wagner, Senior Legislative Analyst

Two legislative packages to advance President Joe Biden’s major proposals to invest in the nation’s infrastructure, including health infrastructure priorities, stalled during the week of Sept. 25 as progressive and moderate Democrats debated the size and contents of the two bills.

On Sept. 25, the House Budget Committee advanced the Build Back Better Act by a vote of 20-17, following two weeks of committee-level markups on individual provisions of the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion reconciliation package [refer to Washington Highlights, Sept. 17]. The Budget Committee combined individual committees’ provisions into one package, which will next go to the House Rules Committee for further amendments. The AAMC previously issued a Sept. 16 press statement commending committees with jurisdiction over health and research agencies for including many of academic medicine’s key health infrastructure priorities in the approved reconciliation package. 

The timeline for additional House and Senate action on the Build Back Better Act is unclear amid continued concerns from moderate House and Senate Democrats over certain policies and the overall price tag. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) remain noncommittal about supporting the bill in its current form. News reports on Sept. 30 indicated Sen. Manchin proposed a slimmed-down $1.5 trillion alternative to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in July.

Congressional Democrats also must decide whether to use the Build Back Better Act to prevent the federal borrowing default expected in mid-October following Republican opposition to suspending the debt ceiling via a measure to fund the government past Sept. 30 [refer to related story].

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives did not meet a self-imposed deadline of Sept. 30 to vote on a separate Senate-approved $1 trillion physical infrastructure package [refer to Washington Highlights, Aug. 27] after progressive Democrats threatened to vote against the bill in the absence of action on the Build Back Better Act. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684) would invest in traditional physical infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, electric grid updates, clean drinking water, and broadband expansion, and was previously amended and approved in a bipartisan vote in the Senate [refer to Washington Highlights, Aug. 13].

The House began debate on the physical infrastructure package Sept. 27 and at the time of publication has yet to bring the legislation to a final vote on the House floor.

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