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Recovery Priorities

The House is preparing to vote on their version of the Build Back Better Act, which includes a variety of provisions in each of the priority issue areas the Congressional Progressive Caucus negotiated collectively to get these policies in the final recovery package at the beginning of this year. 

The CPC Priorities Include:

  1. Pathway to Citizenship 
  2. Dramatically Lower Drug Prices & Use Savings to Pay for Public Health Expansion
  3. Investments in Climate
  4. Investments in the Care Economy 
  5. Investments in Housing
  6. Making the Ultra-Rich and Big Corporations Pay Their Fair Share

The fact that all of our priorities are still on the table is great news! But the details are important here! The House version of the reconciliation package requires critical improvements to ensure a truly inclusive and just recovery. Progressives can commit their votes together as a voting bloc and use that leverage in legislative negotiations to secure progressive wins and prevent harmful compromises.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s what the CPC did for the American Rescue Plan! This play resulted in some huge progressive wins like $1400 checks and extended Unemployment Insurance making it into the final bill. 

We will get into what exact improvements Progressives want to see in the final budget reconciliation package below, but for a refresher on Recovery and how the budget process relates to it check out this resource

What We Want to See in the Budget Reconciliation Bill 

Pathway to Citizenship

We know that immigrants, including those without status, are critical members of communities all across the country, and make up a huge percentage of the essential workers who have supported our country through this long, terrifying, and devastating pandemic. 

We join the CPC in calling for: 

  • Citizenship for DACA recipients, TPS holders, and essential workers. 
  • Inclusion of all immigrants in the recovery package. 

If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that our fates are closely tied. We cannot have a full and inclusive recovery while leaving huge swaths of our communities behind. 

Lower Drug Prices & Reinvest Savings Back into Medicare

The House version of the Build Back Better Act includes essential provisions to expand Medicare benefits and lower prescription drug prices by allowing Medicare to negotiate them. But we aren’t in the clear yet. 

The package does not include some of our key priorities, like:

  • A swift phase-in for dental benefits (currently makes seniors wait until 2028!)
  • No co-pays for dental benefits (currently requires seniors to pay 90% of major dental treatments the first year and then a heafty 50% after)
  • Lowering the Medicare eligibility age
  • Out-of-pocket cap

We need to make sure these critical improvements are included in the final package. Unfortunately, that’s not our only problem. Three pharma-backed Democrats voted against the provisions to lower drug prices in the Energy & Commerce committee (Representatives Rice, Peters, & Schrader) causing the measure to fail. Fortunately, the Ways & Means Committee was able to pass the same provisions through their committee (since both committees share jurisdiction over healthcare provisions). 

This means that House Democrats still have an opportunity to include Medicare negotiations in the final reconciliation bill. BUT we will need to push ALL democrats to vote to pass the entire package on the floor. With the slim majority in the House, NO MORE than 3 democrats can vote against the bill or it FAILS.

Climate

The House is preparing to vote on their version of the Build Back Better Act, which includes three of our climate priorities. 

  • Reduce overall emissions by at least 45%
  • Establishing a federal Clean Electricity Performance Program
  • Investing in green infrastructure jobs, including through the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps

Biden has committed to cut climate pollution at least in half by 2030, in order to achieve this goal Build Back Better must reduce emissions by at least 45%. The good news is the House version does that! According to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the array of climate investments made in the House bill cut climate pollution 45 percent by 2030. Now we need to make sure the Senate doesn’t weaken the climate provisions in the bill.

Both Biden and the CPC have called for a federal Clean Electricity Performance Program. The CEPP provides payments to electric utilities that increase their share of clean electricity and reduce their emissions. Specifically, the CEPP provides a payment to utilities to increase their share of clean, renewable energy by at least 4% every year. The House Energy and Commerce Committee marked up this program and it centers renewables and does not invest in dirty fossil fuels like natural gas. This is great news and we need to make sure that the Senate does not weaken this bill.

Additionally, House Education and Labor passed a number of job programs including investments in the Civilian Climate Corps (CCC). This program would create good paying, green jobs that invest in frontline communities. Unfortunately, the committee drastically cut the funding to this program so it is less than $10 billion, far lower than the $30 billion needed. It will be up to the Senate to boost funding for the CCC to at least $30 billion. Climate jobs are the future and we must fight to ensure these programs are done right. 

Care Economy

Paid Family and Medical Leave

The House bill includes a strong paid leave provision that would offer all workers 12 weeks of guaranteed paid leave, replacing at least two thirds of income for most workers, and even more for low-income workers. Importantly, it starts quickly, with benefits beginning in 2023. While the structure of this program is not perfect, and we would prefer it provide more weeks and more generous income replacement, this would be a dramatic improvement over the status quo where millions of workers don’t have access to paid leave at all. 

We need the Senate to maintain this provision, and not weaken the wage replacement or move back the timeline for benefits starting. Senators must also make sure the language is not gutted by the Byrd rule, otherwise many workers taking the leave may not have job protections and could be fired for using the benefit - which would of course defeat the purpose. 

Child Care

The House bill contains a strong universal child care program, and would raise wages for child care workers. In a testament to the power of the voting bloc, progressives on the Education and Labor committee worked with their colleagues to secure an amendment that guarantees no family pays more than 7% of their income for child care. The program would be administered by states, but importantly they included a provision that allows cities and towns to apply for funding directly from the federal government if their state refuses to set up a program.  We know that GOP governors and state legislatures cannot be trusted to oversee an expansion of the social safety net, so this backstop is incredibly important for millions of families. 

We must protect this provision in the Senate, especially the 7% cap, and push back against attempts to add unnecessary administrative barriers, like means testing or work requirements, which only end up harming the most vulnerable families and making the program less functional.

Home and Community-Based Care

We support the progressive demand for investing $400 billion into our care economy, specifically to:

  • Expand access to home and community-based services through Medicaid for aging relatives and people with disabilities.
  • Improve the quality of caregiving jobs by raising wages and ensuring the free and fair choice to join a union and collectively bargain.

The House bill takes a strong step in that direction, though unfortunately falls far short of the total investment needed, at just $190 billion. We must ensure the Senate does not target this program for any further cuts, as this smaller number can only be considered a down payment. 

Housing 

The House bill includes critical housing investments to make housing greener and more affordable. It invests $90 billion in rental assistance for low-income renters, a population typically left behind in major legislation, and targets one third of that funding for those experiencing or at risk of homelessness. It contains significant investments in public housing to repair existing units and, for the first time in over two decades, would increase the overall supply of public housing. There are tens of billions of dollars for deeply affordable housing, including retrofits and upgrades, and for first-generation homebuyer assistance. 

Combined, these would be a generational investment, particularly for low-income communities and communities of color. Yet even a generational investment would not fully meet the needs for affordable housing we face. The Senate must not make cuts to this package, and in particular must retain the provision allowing construction of new public housing units. 

What You Can Do

As Progressives work together to include their priorities in recovery, we must support them in this fight.

You can call your Member of Congress and demand they work to quickly pass an inclusive recovery, include our key priorities in recovery, and make sure our priorities are fully funded.

The CPC saw huge wins in the American Rescue Plan by working with one another and with progressive organizations to create a powerful voting bloc and we are looking forward to passing a recovery package that works for all people.