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The Build Back Better Act, Explained

The Build Back Better Act (BBB) is the product of months of hard work and negotiations from Democrats in Congress. Building on plans proposed by President Biden in the spring of 2020, progressives got to work fighting for key priorities to be included in the legislation. Unfortunately we’ve faced opposition from conservative Democrats who have watered down significant portions of the bill, and consistently attempted to derail the entire package.

In the face of conservative Democrats obstructing the passage of BBB, Progressives struck a deal to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF), and in return got a written commitment from those conservative Democrats that they would vote for BBB. 

Because the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) stood together to demand that the BBB, which contains a large portion of the Democratic agenda, move forward, we’ve finally seen the bill pass the House. This would not have been possible without the tireless organizing going on across the country to push our MoCs to make use of this Democratic Trifecta and deliver on their promises.

Read on to learn what is actually in the bill, how your MoC voted, and what needs to be done to get the BBB passed the Senate and signed into law!

What is in The Build Back Better Act?

The Build Back Better Act is a package of badly needed public investments across the economy, designed to support children and families, historic investments in climate action, make health care more affordable, and provide deportation protection and work permits for many immigrants, all while taking steps to make our tax code more fair for working families.

While a number of urgent priorities were not included (we’ll cover those below), there are a bunch of provisions that we should celebrate - and fight to make sure they stay in the final version that passes the Senate. Here are some of the highlights: 

  • Extends the improved Child Tax Credit to help meet the needs of parents and children. The bill would extend the monthly payments of $250-$300 per month to families through 2022, and permanently ensures the lowest income families qualify - a critical step towards ending childhood poverty. 
  • $550 billion in climate action, clean energy jobs, and environmental justice. With billions in clean energy tax credits, BBB will help spur us towards a clean energy future. A fully funded Civilian Climate Corps will create millions of good paying climate jobs. The inclusion of key environmental justice priorities like resilient and energy-efficient housing, Environmental and Climate Justice Block grants, and community pollution cleanup are a good step towards investing in environmental and climate justice. Finally, the inclusion of a methane fee will help the US cut emissions as we work to meet President Biden’s commitment to cut climate pollution at least in half by 2030. 
  • Historic investments in affordable housing. This includes $26 billion for rental assistance programs to assist more low-income families in affording quality housing, $65 billion to repair and renovate our public housing which has a backlog of needed upgrades, and $15 billion to increase the supply of truly affordable housing.
  • Truly universal Pre-K and dramatically improved access to affordable child care. Preschool for 3 and 4 year-olds would be free and universal, covering as many as 6 million more children, and improving the quality of pre-k programs. States will also be able to cap child care costs at 7% of income for most families, with additional assistance for low-income families, while raising wages for child care providers. 
  • Guarantees 4 weeks of paid family and medical leave for all workers. The United States is one of the only countries in the world not to guarantee paid leave, and this bill would change that by providing all workers with at least 4 weeks, permanently. 
  • Strengthened labor rights for workers through meaningful penalties for abusive employers. Currently, employers who violate their workers’ labor rights face few consequences, incentivizing this type of abusive behavior. The BBB attaches fines to these types of violations, and increases enforcement so workers’ rights are more protected. 
  • Expanded access to home and community based care services for older Americans and people with disabilities and strengthening the caregiving workforce. Many seniors struggle to afford the home-based care they need and deserve, and millions of families are on waiting lists to receive care at all. This bill invests $150 billion to reduce costs, shorten the wait list, and improve wages for caregivers. 
  • Extends deportation protection and work permits to an estimated seven million undocumented immigrants for five years, with the chance of renewing for an additional five years. In general, immigrants who arrived by January 1, 2011 who can pass a background check are eligible. 
  • Takes positive steps towards lowering certain prescription drug prices for some Americans. The bill would (starting in 2023) cap the amount every person with health insurance pays for insulin at no more than $35 per month at in-network providers, eliminate deductibles for insulin, and require any cost-sharing on insulin to be applied to a plan's deductible and out-of-pocket (OOP) maximum. The bill also lowers drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries by allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of insulin and other select drugs starting in 2025, establishing a $2,000 per year OOP cap for Part D drugs. Lastly, the bill includes strong enforcement provisions to ensure Big Pharma comes to the negotiation table and does not raise prices above the point of inflation.
  • Expands Medicare benefits to include coverage of hearing services, like hearing aids, starting in 2024.
  • Extends enhanced ACA marketplace subsidies through the end of 2025.
  • Closes Medicaid coverage gap in non-expansion states through the end of 2025. The BBB would temporarily qualify people in the 12 non-expansion states, who have been denied coverage for over 10 years, for advance premium tax credits (APTCs) and cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) to purchase marketplace coverage through 2025, typically with low copayments or no deductible.
  • Expands eligibility and coverage under Medicaid and CHIP. Require Medicaid and CHIP to provide 12 months of continuous eligibility for children and coverage for postpartum people. The BBB would also permanently authorize funding for the CHIP program and extend Medicaid coverage to people exiting incarceration to ensure uninterrupted healthcare coverage.

That’s a lot! And we’re excited to see these provisions move one step closer to becoming law. 

Democrats did miss some opportunities for progressive wins

This bill doesn’t have everything we wanted, but we know that without progressives holding the line and insisting that the BIF was not enough, we wouldn’t have gotten anything in the list above. If something you fought for isn’t on the list, blame Manchin, Sinema or the conservative Dems who revolted in the House. But send progressives your appreciation for everything we’ve gotten this far. 

That said, here are some of the misses that hurt the most:

  • While the drug pricing provisions in BBB are a step in the right direction, the bill does not deliver on the long-held Democratic promise to fully give Medicare the authority to negotiate lower drug prices for all people in the U.S. The bill excludes some of the most expensive drugs from being negotiated for 9-12 years and puts a ceiling on the number of drugs Medicare can negotiate per year. 
  • Although the original version of the House bill included a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, the version passed by the House only includes a much lesser and time-bound provision protecting against deportation and access to work permits for the next five years, with the chance to renew for five additional years. 
  • While expanded hearing services for Medicare beneficiaries is in the package, comprehensive vision and dental coverage were not. Congress must deliver the critically needed dental and vision coverage that millions of older adults are desperately waiting for to get the health care they deserve.
  • Although the BBB makes some important changes to our tax code, it fails to meaningfully take on the concentration of wealth at the very top by taxing capital gains or preventing millionaires and billionaires from avoiding taxes their entire lives. Additionally it is a missed opportunity not to raise the corporate tax rate so that huge corporations and Wall Street banks that benefit from public services also pay their fair share. 
  • The BBB makes important investments in climate, however this bill does not eliminate domestic fossil fuel subsidies and even increases an existing one that will specifically help coal companies. It is critical that the Biden Administration step up and take strong administrative action to end our reliance on fossil fuels and transition the country towards truly clean, renewable energy. 

How did your MoCs vote on this bill?

You can see for yourself how your MoCs in the House voted on final passage by checking here to see how your MoC voted! 

What do we do now?

The top priority right now is passing this bill through the Senate as quickly as possible. There are some procedural hurdles that the Senate will have to jump through as part of the budget reconciliation process, but there’s no reason for them to delay this bill any longer. It’s time to pass it

Senator Schumer has told us that he expects the Senate to vote on the Build Back Better Act right after Thanksgiving, and President Biden has told us he has 51 votes in the Senate. Let’s hold both of them to their commitments!

Appreciation or Accountability for your Representatives in the House!

Follow up with your MoC to tell them what you thought of how they chose to act. While it can be tempting to move on to the next thing after a bill has passed, it’s critical to finish the process by making sure to thank MoCs who did the right thing, and express frustration, disappointment, anger, even outrage, to the MoCs who failed to vote for the relief people desperately need. 

Thanking MoCs helps create a virtuous cycle where they’re more likely to push for progressive amendments, or avoid defecting if they’re more moderate, in the future. And making sure that your Republican MoCs know that you’re watching, and that you aren’t giving them a shred of credit, for any of the good provisions in this package, is critical too! 

Tell your Senator to pass the BBB!

Sample call or email script:

Hello, my name is [YOUR NAME] and I am from [CITY/STATE]. I’m calling Sen. [SENATOR NAME] to make sure they will vote “yes” on the Build Back Better Act. We urgently need to invest in climate action, in supporting children and families, in affordable housing, and more. Does [SENATOR NAME] support passing the Build Back Better Act the week of November 29th?

Thank your Representative if they supported the Build Back Better Act!

Sample call or email script:

Hello, my name is [YOUR NAME] and I am from [CITY/STATE]. I’m calling Rep. [MOC NAME] to thank them for their support of the Build Back Better Act. This bill is incredibly important to me because [Fill in your reason]. I’m grateful to see my representative advocating for their constituents by passing this bill.

Express your frustration to your Representative who voted against the Build Back Better Act in the House!

Sample call or email script:

Hello, my name is [YOUR NAME] and I am from [CITY/STATE]. I’m calling [MOC NAME] to share my outrage that they voted against the Build Back Better Act.  This is a badly needed investment in care, climate, and our communities, and I’m outraged they used their vote to oppose this urgent legislation. I am glad the Build Back Better Act passed, despite their “no” vote. I urge [MOC NAME] stop playing politics with people’s lives and livelihoods, and finally put your constituents first.