Status Update: Where things stand in Congress for Biden’s Jobs and Families plans

July 8, 2021

With the House and Senate on recess, now is a good time to provide a status update on where things stand for legislation that President Joe Biden wants enacted into law.

The President released the following plans earlier this year: 

  • The American Jobs Plan:
    • Released on March 31
    • Includes over $2 trillion in tax increases on corporations and fossil fuels
    • Price tag lowered to $1.7 trillion and is now $1.2 trillion
    • Lawmakers have begun discussing this plan 
  • The American Families Plan:
    • Released on April 28
    • Includes roughly $1.6 trillion in tax increases on wealthier taxpayers and increases tax compliance
    • Lawmakers have yet to have in-depth discuss on this plan

Neither of Biden’s plans have been turned into legislation (more on this later)

Congressional Democratic leaders have employed a two-track approach to turning the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan into legislation. Lawmakers are expected to work on both tracks simultaneously   

Track One:

  • The American Jobs Plan:
    • In the Senate:
      • President Biden and a bipartisan group of Senators agreed on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure proposal that does not increase personal or corporate income taxes
      • Senate Democratic leaders hope to vote on this bill as soon as next week
        • This goal will be hard to achieve given that legislation is not yet written
      • Senators are currently writing up the legislative text for this bill
      • The Senate has formed working groups to straighten-out unsettled provisions in the $1.2 trillion infrastructure proposal
        • The creation of working groups usually means that Committees will not be involved in writing the legislative text
      • The bill is expected to be based on the “framework” that was released in June
        • The framework includes a topline dollar figure of $579 billion for new spending on roads, bridges, public transit, ports, airports and broadband technologies
      • The framework’s cost is expected to be fully paid-for by:
        • Reducing the IRS tax gap (originally in the American Families Plan)
        • Improving unemployment insurance program integrity
        • Redirecting unused unemployment insurance relief funds
        • Repurposing unused relief funds from 2020 emergency relief legislation
        • State and local investment in broadband infrastructure
        • Allowing states to sell or purchase unused toll credits for infrastructure
        • Extending expiring customs user fees
        • Reinstating Superfund fees for chemicals
        • 5G spectrum auction proceeds
        • Extending mandatory sequester
        • Strategic petroleum reserve sale
        • Public private partnerships, private activity bonds, direct pay bonds and asset recycling for infrastructure investment
        • Macroeconomic impact of infrastructure investment
    • While details are currently scant for how these provisions will work, some highly respected budget prognosticators off Capitol Hill say these provisions will not fully offset a $1.2 trillion bill
    • A bipartisan group of 58 House lawmakers, called the Problem Solvers Caucus, has endorsed this plan
    • Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wants to add tax increases to the bill
      • He seeks an increase in the corporate income tax and taxing unrealized capital gains on wealthier taxpayers
      • If Wyden succeeds in this endeavor, no Republicans will support this bill, and it will fail
  • In the House:
    • House lawmakers approved in June a $715 billion surface transportation bill (H.R. 3684)
      • This is a spending bill and does not contain any tax measures
      • Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, recently told reporters that a tax title could come later. It is not clear what he meant since the House has already passed the bill
      • This is not the American Jobs Plan, according to House Democratic leaders
        • They say this bill will be the basis for what they will use when conferring with the Senate and President Biden on their $1.2 trillion proposal
  • Votes needed to pass if legislation for the American Jobs Plan is created:
    • The House: a simple majority
      • Can pass with only Democratic support
      • No Republican support expected
    • The Senate: at least 60 votes
      • At least ten Senate Republicans must support this bill for it to pass
      • It is not clear if there is enough Republican support to pass the bill
  • Possible next steps:
    • Assuming the Senate can pass its legislation for the American Jobs Plan, it will likely be different from what the House passed, i.e., the $547 billion surface transportation bill (H.R. 3684)
    • Normally, these bills would immediately be conferenced to hash-out the differences between the bills
    • Instead, a conference on legislation for the American Jobs Plan could be tabled so action can begin on the American Families Plan

Track Two:

  • The American Families Plan:
    • Congressional Democrats seek to move this bill through a process called “budget reconciliation”
    • Democratic congressional leaders must first pass a budget before they can use budget reconciliation to move their American Families Plan
    • Both chambers must agree on the same budget
    • The Senate hopes to pass a budget this month
    • It is unclear when the House will vote on a budget
  • In the Senate:
    • Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is preparing a budget that includes “reconciliation” instructions
    • The instructions are expected to allow a bill costing $6 trillion with $2.4 trillion in tax increases
    • Many of the tax provisions to be in Sanders’ plan were included in the Jobs and Families plans. They were explained in the Treasury’s Green Book and include:
      • Raising the corporate income tax rate from 21% to 28%
      • Taxing long-term capital gains and qualified dividends at ordinary income tax rates for taxpayers with adjusted gross income of more than $1 million
      • Significantly modifying the taxation of the international activities of U.S.-owned businesses
      • Limiting the amount of gain eligible for deferral under section 1031
      • Repealing tax provisions benefiting the fossil fuel industry
      • Providing additional tax incentives for renewable and alternative energy
      • Transferring appreciated property by gift or on death would be taxed as realization events, subject to a $1 million per person exemption, effectively allowing stepped-up basis with respect to exempted property
      • Ensuring that all trade or business income of taxpayers with adjusted gross income in excess of $400,000 would be subject to either the 3.8% Medicare tax or the 3.8% net investment income tax
    • The Sanders proposal provides relief on the SALT deduction cap, but details have not been made public
    • On the Spending side, this bill will address an array of issues, like childcare, elder care, day care as well as Medicare, climate and immigration matters
      • Reconciliation rules may not permit some of these provisions being in the bill
  • In the House:
    • House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) will wait to release his budget proposal until the Senate passes its budget resolution

Possible next steps:

  • After the House and Senate pass the same budget, committees in both chambers are expected to use the reconciliation instructions to write the legislative text for the American Families Plan
    • The legislative process will require action from several committees and is expected to take a while
  • Votes needed to pass if legislation for the American Families Plan is created:
    • The House: a simple majority
    • The Senate: a simple majority (51 votes)
      • Budget reconciliation rule allow passage with a simple majority
      • There are 50 Democratic Senators, so all of them need to support the bill
      • Vice President Kamala Harris would be the 51st vote

Prospects for passage:

  • Jobs Plan: Progressive Democrats in both chambers could oppose it
    • They think its benefits are too narrowly focused, i.e., not enough aid to familes
      • House: Can only lose four Democratic votes before it fails
      • Senate: If Dem opposition is widespread, passage depends on GOP votes, which is dicey
      • If this bill fails to pass, it could be rolled into the Families Plan
  • Families Plan: Moderate Democrats are not fond of the bill
    • They say it spends too much and increases taxes
    • No Republican from either chamber is expected to support it
      • House: Can only lose four Democratic votes before it fails
      • Senate: If one Democrat opposes it, it fails
  • Since Biden released these plans, it seems less likely that they will be enacted into law. However, that could change. There is a saying on Capitol Hill that legislation is assumed to fail – until it passes. This could be true for Biden’s plans, but it is too early to tell
  • The House and Senate are expected to vote on both bills in the fall
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