Federal Policy Update
Last week was a very busy week on Capitol Hill as members of Congress raced the clock to address four critical and time-sensitive issues:
- Government Shutdown: Congress managed to avoid a government shutdown by passing stopgap funding legislation just ahead of the October 1st deadline to keep the government open until December 3.
- U.S. Debt Ceiling: Every year, Congress passes a federal budget that determines government spending on infrastructure and services, and for many years now, the taxes that we pay have not covered the total amount of government spending included in the budget. As such, the government must borrow money to make up the difference, and the debt ceiling dictates how much the government can borrow. If the debt ceiling is not raised or suspended, the U.S. would default on its debts. This has never happened before in U.S. history, but this year, lawmakers remain deadlocked about raising or suspending the debt ceiling. If we do default on our debts, experts theorize that it could have disastrous effects on the American economy, and for the millions of families who rely on government programs like Social Security and Medicaid.
- $1 Trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill: The bipartisan infrastructure bill includes funding for roads, bridges, transit, broadband networks, and other physical infrastructure needs. The bill has already passed the Senate, but has not yet been voted on in the House. Progressive Democrats in the House do not want to pass the infrastructure bill without first making meaningful progress on moving the much larger $3.5 reconciliation budget bill (item 4) first.
- $3.5 Trillion Reconciliation Budget Bill: The reconciliation budget bill, also known as the Build Back Better Act, contains funding for a wide array of progressive social, healthcare, and climate policies and initiatives. The House Budget Committee narrowly voted to pass the reconciliation budget bill out of committee for a vote on the House floor, but there is disagreement even among Democrats about provisions included in the massive bill. The reconciliation budget currently includes $10 billion in community health center infrastructure funding and $6.3 billion in workforce funding. The House reconciliation bill also includes $150 million for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. Additionally, the reconciliation budget includes funding for a number of progressive social and health policies that would especially benefit low-income LGBTQ communities, including: expanded access to Medicaid, child care assistance and universal pre-K, extended child tax credits, inclusive paid family and medical leave, expanded services to support LGBTQ older Americans on Medicare, and expanded housing assistance for low-income people. We support these and other provisions within the reconciliation budget legislation that aim to increase access to services and advance health equity for traditionally marginalized and underserved communities. Progressive Democrats hope to force movement on the reconciliation budget by withholding votes on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, but the reconciliation budget as is may not have the votes necessary to pass in the Senate, as moderate Democrats disapprove of the $3.5 trillion price tag. Negotiations on the reconciliation budget and infrastructure bill are ongoing.