The White House released a $1.75 trillion spending agreement with congressional Democrats, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed colleagues to vote Thursday for a separate infrastructure bill.
The White House released a summary of the Build Back Better Thursday morning and hours later the House Rules Committee posted the text of the package of social programs and climate measures that Democrats plan to move through the budget reconciliation process.
The summary was released as President Joe Biden was on Capitol Hill trying to get House Democrats to win support for the infrastructure bill by assuring them that he had an agreement on the Build Back Better package that could pass the Senate.
There are no details in the White House outline on the amounts of funding that would be provided under the legislation.
But the summary says the “increased investments in climate-smart agriculture alone could reach roughly 130 million cropland acres per year, representing as many as 240,000 farms. Farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners have long demonstrated leadership in environmental stewardship with strategies that provide benefits for the farm, the environment, and the public."
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told reporters Wednesday that the agriculture provisions would be significant but would get a “haircut” from what the House and Senate Ag committees had worked out earlier this fall. Those provisions, including debt relief measures, would cost around $100 billion.
The agreement also preserves an expansion of child nutrition assistance: "The legislation will expand free school meals to 8.7 million children during the school year and provide a $65 per child per month benefit to the families of 29 million children to purchase food during the summer," the summary says.
Stabenow said in a statement Thursday that the package "grows jobs in rural communities and invests in solutions to the climate crisis to help strengthen our future. The bill scales up climate-smart ag programs that farmers, foresters, and rural businesses use to protect resources and be more energy efficient. It helps small towns fight for their fair share of federal dollars. And the bill takes meaningful steps to lowers costs for families and helps make sure children get healthy meals during the school year and through the summer."
According to the White House summary, the bill would be paid for largely through tax increases that would likely have little direct impact on agriculture. They include a 15% minimum tax on corporations and a 5% surtax on personal incomes above $10 million.
There is no mention in the summary of inheritance tax issues that were in the House version of the package: A reduction of the estate tax exemption and a corresponding expansion of the Section 2032A valuation reduction.
The other climate provisions in the package include a variety of incentives for clean energy and for creation of a Civilian Climate Corps. The renewable energy incentives include consumer rebates and credits that "will save the average American family hundreds of dollars per year in energy costs. These measures include enhancement and expansion of existing home energy and efficiency tax credits, as well as the creation of a new, electrification-focused rebate program," the summary says.
"The framework will cut the cost of installing rooftop solar for a home by around 30 percent, shortening the payback period by around 5 years; and the framework’s electric vehicle tax credit will lower the cost of an electric vehicle that is made in America with American materials and union labor by $12,500 for a middle-class family. In addition, the framework will help rural communities tap into the clean energy opportunity through targeted grants and loans through the Department of Agriculture."
The fate of key biofuel incentives is still unclear. The House version of the bill included an extension of the $1-a-gallon tax credit for biodiesel and renewable diesel, but it is not mentioned in the White House summary. The Senate Finance Committee approved an alternative measure that would replace existing biofuel tax incentives with a new low-carbon fuel credit that would include aviation fuel as well as biodiesel, renewable diesel and other alternative fuels. The House bill would create a separate tax credit for sustainable aviation fuel.
House progressives have been holding up passage of the Senate-passed infrastructure bill until getting a deal on the Build Back Better bill that they could support.
After a Democratic caucus meeting with Biden Thursday morning, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., told reporters that Pelosi pushed Democrats to vote for the infrastructure bill later in the day.
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“We're just waiting to see how it sifts out. but the president couldn't have been any better,” Neal said.
During the meeting, Biden didn't press Democrats to vote for the infrastructure bill Thursday, said Rep. Pramila Jaypal, a Washington Democrat who leads the progressive caucus. She told reporters she wasn't sure whether progressives would support the infrastructure measure without seeing the text of the Build Back Better bill.
But House Agriculture Appropriations Chairman Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., told Agri-Pulse he thought the infrastructure bill would get a vote Thursday. On Biden’s meeting with House Democrats regarding the reconciliation bill, “I thought it was very positive. I thought he laid out a very strong framework (and) I’m very optimistic,” Bishop said.
Authority for federal highway spending is scheduled to expire Sunday, unless the House passes the infrastructure bill or Congress enacts another short-term extension.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, one of two key Democrats whom Biden has had to win over on the Build Back Better plan, declined to discuss the framework Thursday morning.
"This is all in the hands of the House right now. .... I worked in good faith, and I look forward to continuing working in good faith, and that is all I have to say today," he told reporters.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said a vote on the infrastructure bill Thursday would be premature. House members "should not be voting for the infrastructure bill unless they see very clear language (on the Build Back Better package) and know that there are 50 senators on board, whatever the agreement may be."
All 50 Senate Democrats must vote for the measure in order for it to pass the evenly divided chamber.
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