Legislative Update: Historic Investment in the Nation’s Infrastructure

Congressional Democrats continued to negotiate and debate two interrelated pieces of legislation over the weekend, including investments in the nation’s physical infrastructure as well as a set of wider domestic spending priorities. Late Friday evening, lawmakers came together and passed a historic investment in the nation’s infrastructure while setting up a timeline to pass the remainder of President Biden’s domestic agenda.

House Democrats Pass Infrastructure Bill and Aim to Complete Budget Reconciliation by mid-November 

Since the spring, Congressional Democrats have pursued a “two-track” legislative strategy tying together legislation that would invest in the nation’s physical infrastructure (i.e. roads, bridges, waterways, and connectivity), known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF), along with complementary legislation intended to invest in the human infrastructure via the Congressional budget reconciliation process. These domestic priorities related to human infrastructure are necessary, at least in part, to preparing the skilled workforce needed to make the BIF’s vision for the nation’s future infrastructure a success. Connecting the two pieces of legislation–together representing the totality of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda–has been Congressional Democrats’ core strategy to garner the necessary support in both chambers to pass both of these bills this year. 

On Friday, this months-long effort bore fruit as House lawmakers passed the BIF, which will invest $550 billion in the nation’s physical infrastructure over the next decade. Projects for this investment will range from updates to the electrical grid to the electrification of busses and improvements for roads and other transit hubs. Significantly, the bill includes $65 billion for the expansion of broadband connectivity efforts along with $200 million for lead pipe remediation in public K-12 schools. 

In the lead up to the BIF’s passage late Friday night, however, lawmakers continued to struggle to find the necessary votes within the Democratic Caucus to pass the Build Back Better Act (BBBA)– legislation that would invest $1.75 trillion over the next several years in a slew of complementary domestic priorities including Career Technical Education (CTE) and workforce development (as shared last week). 

Several lawmakers in the House withheld their support for this bill citing the need for a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score detailing the costs and related benefits of the legislation. As a consequence, Democratic leaders and key members of the caucus struck a deal to pass the BIF while committing to a vote on the BBBA during the week of November 15. Following the BIF’s passage, President Biden issued a statement early Saturday morning in support of the legislation while also committing to the passage of the BBBA aligned with this agreement. 

Yet it remains unclear when the CBO score will become available and whether House lawmakers will vote on the BBBA, as agreed to Friday evening and codified in a related rule, during the week of November 15. Despite this uncertainty, House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) circulated a Dear Colleague letter on Sunday re-committing to this timeline when the House reconvenes next week. Should the House pass the BBBA during the week of November 15, a timeline for its consideration and passage in the Senate remains much more opaque. As this process continues to unfold, Advance CTE will continue to advocate for a robust investment in CTE, via the BBBA, to ensure the historic investments Congress made in the nation’s infrastructure can be made a reality.

Steve Voytek, Policy Advisor

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