This week it may seem like we saw a setback in the Senate when the vote to move the federal infrastructure package failed. This is the package of legislation that is moving through Congress to provide funding for “hard” infrastructure – think roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, energy advancements, broadband investments for rural areas, etc. But the failed vote really wasn’t a defeat at all. Let me explain.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer brought up a procedural vote as a strategy to push both Republicans and Democrats to work out their differences more quickly. In fact, Schumer voted against the motion in order to preserve the right to bring it back up next week. This package is moving through the regular legislative process in the Senate and therefore will need 60 votes to pass - ten Republicans and all Democrats. There is a group of Republicans and Democrats – including West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin – working to iron out the details. As always, the sticking points are more about how to pay for the package of investments. A positive sign is that eleven Republicans signed a letter to Schumer stating that they would support moving forward the week of July 25th. Senator Manchin said he felt “confident” their effort would have the 60 votes to advance the package by next week.
The not-so-bipartisan “soft” infrastructure package:
While the hard infrastructure package is being debated and will need to move with 60 votes in the Senate, the package of so-called “soft” supports for working families is on a different track. This package will move through the budget resolution and budget reconciliation process that only requires 50 votes in the Senate to pass (all the Democrats).
The “soft” infrastructure package includes our health care priorities—APTCs, expanded Medicare benefits, prescription drug costs, and closing the coverage gap. We and our allies are hoping Congress will make critical investments to help West Virginia working families that include:
Right now we can celebrate the proposed $3.5 trillion budget resolution – which is a blueprint for the budget reconciliation process that creates allowable spending targets for different committees but is not itself a law. While President Biden had outlined proposals that would have cost more than $3.5 trillion, this amount represents a commitment to a larger investment than many expected to see from the Senate.
We sent out an email Action Alert asking you to call Senator Manchin and thank him for expressing support for the $3.5 trillion budget resolution. We need to make sure he stays the course and continues to support this level of investment in programs that will help West Virginia working families. https://p2a.co/g8azH2M
Our allies at Community Catalyst and the Center on Budget and Policy who are truly experts on Congressional action have told us that “we are well positioned in the reconciliation package” and “things are definitely moving in the right direction.”
So what is happening now?
Even as I write this, the Committees with jurisdiction over issues we care about are having intensive conversations about what exact policies they will move forward within the framework of the $3.5 trillion budget. We know that staff are putting details on paper right NOW. This process of working out the actual legislative language and details will be ongoing through August. We must keep sending messages that our priorities must remain in the mix.
We are seeing some details come into focus (see here from the Washington Post). We know that these items are on the table:
It is all definitely exciting!
BUT let me close with this reality check from our colleague Jessie Zimmerer, Campaign Manager, Community Catalyst:
“As we’ve seen many times before, in order to keep things moving in the right direction, and keep them from unraveling in the process, we have to advocate hard, mobilize hard, and never let up on outreach to members until the last vote is cast.”