With the Senate approving the bipartisan infrastructure bill Aug. 10, the $1 trillion spending package now moves to the House for a vote. If signed into law, the bill would authorize federal investments in , , public transit and electric utilities.
While it could amount to one of the biggest infrastructure packages in more than a decade, the pared-down bill doesn’t address what some are calling “human infrastructure,” including federal funding for education, health care, child care, climate initiatives and housing. That’s left for a separate-but-complementary $3.5 trillion spending plan being hashed out by the Democrats. The Senate took the first step toward that broader investment package following the infrastructure bill vote and sketched out plans to move forward through “ ,” a legislative tool that would allow Democrats to approve the plan without any Republican support.
The price tag for these two bills is large, and a lot can happen before the final legislation is passed. We’ll explain what Congress is working on, a possible timetable for the spending packages and how they could directly help you. If you want to know more about additional tax relief, here’s a primer on theand the continuing . This story was updated with new information.
What does the Senate’s infrastructure bill include?
Approved by the Senate with the support of 19 Republican senators, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would authorize new federal spending over five years. The bill — created by a bipartisan group of senators including Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema — now moves over to the House of Representatives for a vote. According to President Joe Biden, projects funded by the bill would add “around 2 million jobs per year over the course of the decade.” Here are details on which infrastructure areas would receive funding.
- Public transit, airports and rail, including money for mass transit, passenger and freight rail, airports and ports and waterways.
- Roads and bridges, with funding to either repair or rebuild roads and bridges, including for cyclists and pedestrians.
- Electric vehicles, including money to construct a network of electric vehicle chargers and electrify school and transit buses.
- Water, sewer, power systems and environmental remediation, including funding to replace the nation’s lead pipe service lines and improve its power grid.
- Broadband: The deal includes $65 billion to improve the country’s broadband system. The plan originally proposed $100 billion to provide accessible, high-speed internet service.
How soon the House of Representatives could take up the bill is unclear. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is bringing the House back into session the week of Aug. 23.
What does the Senate’s ‘human infrastructure’ package include?
After passing the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, the Senate approved the blueprint for a $3.5 trillion budget resolution. Unlike the infrastructure bill, with its focus on rebuilding the roads, bridges and power supply of the country, money from the proposed budget is supposed to focus on investment that would benefit individuals and families. And unlike that bipartisan bill, the package will likely move forward through a process called budget reconciliation, without needing Republican support.
Here are four key areas Senate Democrats are focusing on in the upcoming spending plan, which could be announced in several weeks:
Families and education: Fund universal preschool, with a new child care benefit for families; make community college tuition-free for two years; extend this year’sand beyond 2021; and create a federal paid family and medical leave program.
Climate: Work to meet the administration’s goal for the US to get 80% of its power from emissions-free sources by 2030 by funding a collection of clean-energy initiatives, including rebates for individuals and families for home electrification and weatherization.
Infrastructure: Fund public housing, green and sustainable housing; rehabilitate aging Veterans Administration buildings and hospitals; and provide workforce development and job training programs.
Health care: Expand federal health care benefits by adding dental, vision and hearing benefits to the Medicare program; fund in-home and community-based services to help seniors, persons with disabilities and home care workers; and work to reduce prescription drug costs.
When could the two bills officially become law?
Right now it’s unclear when either bill will pass both chambers and get signed into law. Now that the Senate has voted on the infrastructure bill, the House needs to approve it, which could take some time. As for the broader spending plan, congressional committees have been directed to craft the pieces of the Democrats’ bill by Sept. 15.
Pelosi intends to bring the House back from a break to take up both spending bills.
Will there be any other economic relief aid on the way?
Ever since the $1,400 stimulus payments under the, millions still struggling with economic hardship from the pandemic have speculated about when more aid could be on the agenda. Here’s an update:
Minimum wage hike to $15 an hour: With the current federal minimum wage at $7.25 per hour (the same level since 2009), some legislators have proposed boosting that hourly rate up to $10 per hour or as high as $15 per hour. On July 28, the Biden administration issued an executive order that would increase the minimum wage for federal government contractors to $15 an hour starting Jan. 30, 2022. Over the past several years, some 30 states, the District of Columbia and 45 localities have raised their minimum wage to above the federal level. Increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 would benefit at least 17 million people, but talks on the matter have stalled.
Student loan cancellation: With student loan debt reaching $1.7 trillion at the end of 2020 — with an average loan amount of $30,000 — student debt is higher than debt from auto loans and credit cards. In March, the Biden administration canceled some $2.3 billion in student loan debt for a handful of borrowers. This summer, another $500 million got erased for former students defrauded by ITT Technical Institute, a for-profit chain that closed in 2016. Still, that’s just a fraction of the roughly 43 million people who have debilitating student loan debt. At the end of July, Biden extended the pause on federal student loan repayments till Jan. 21, 2022, but said nothing about broadly canceling student debt.
The US Senate has voted to pass an amendment in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package that bans federal funds from being used to teach critical race theory in schools, Sen. Tom Cotton says.
The Arkansas Republican introduced the Stop CRT Act last month in a bid to prevent federal tax dollars from being used to teach the “indoctrinating” theory in K-12 classrooms.
The Senate approved Cotton’s amendment 50-49, according to Fox News.
“They want to teach our children that America is not a good nation but a racist nation,” Cotton said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote.
“Those teachings are wrong and our tax dollars should not support them.”
Cotton called CRT an “un-American ideology.”
“My amendment will ensure that federal funds aren’t used to indoctrinate children as young as pre-K to hate America.
“Our future depends on the next generation of kids loving America and loving each other as fellow citizens, no matter their race.”
Cotton’s amendment was part of a 15-hour “vote-a-rama” overnight that eventually saw senators pass the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package 50-49 around 4 a.m.
The fight over CRT in schools — of which Cotton has been an outspoken critic — has escalated in the US over the last year.
Much of the outrage is centered on concerns that children are being indoctrinated into believing that white people are inherently racist.
Supporters of the theory argue it can eliminate systemic racism because it looks at the ways race has influenced US law and culture.
Cotton pointed to several cases of CRT being used in schools, including that 30 schools in 15 states have assigned the CRT-inspired book “Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness,” which depicts “whiteness” as the devil.
He also said Head Start, a federally funded pre-K program, had previously hosted “anti-racist” webinars.