The Senate is split at 50/50 for both political parties. The Democrats need all 50 Senate votes to push the Build Back Better Act closer to the finish line. Will the paid family and medical leave provision remain?
On November 19, 2021, the House passed a $2 trillion spending bill with a number of payroll-related provisions that include paid family and medical leave. House members voted mainly along party lines with a 220 to 213 final tally. The more than 2,000-page long budget reconciliation bill now moves on to the Senate where challenges and changes are expected.
The Build Back Better Act (BBB; H.R. 5376) was introduced in the House on September 27, 2021 as a massive $3.5 trillion spending bill. Through a number of negotiations, the bill was reduced to $1.75 trillion. The House-passed bill increased to $2 trillion. A payroll-related provision for paid family and medical leave was in the bill initially, removed after objections and then reinserted into the House-passed bill with a lesser leave period of four weeks.
Some payroll provisions.
The BBB contains a number of other payroll provisions that include: a payroll tax credit for the compensation of local news journalists and double the small business payroll tax research credit. In addition, the legislation would reinstate and expand the employer-provided fringe benefits for bicycle commuting.
The Congressional Budget Office posted its summary cost estimate for the BBB on November 18, 2021. The estimate says that the BBB would increase the deficit by more than $367 billion over 10 years. The estimate did not include the potential revenue from increasing IRS enforcement, which the CBO suggested would be $207 billion.
Challenges and changes expected in the Senate.
The BBB now goes to the Senate where it will likely face challenges and changes. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has already voiced his concern with including paid family and medical leave in the BBB. The Senior Senator from West Virginia explained that while he supports paid family and medical leave, he does not think it should be included in a budget reconciliation bill.
The current version of the BBB could undergo significant changes in the Senate before going back to the House sometime next month or early in 2022.
All 50 Democrats will need to vote for the BBB in order for it to pass in the Senate. Senators Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have voiced concerns for some parts of the BBB. Both Senators will need to vote for the BBB for it to pass. The 50 Senate Republicans appear united to vote against the BBB.
Possible Democrat party unity.
On November 21, 2021, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) expressed optimism that Manchin will support paid family and medical leave in the Senate’s version of the bill. “I think Sen. Manchin and I can come together hopefully in the next couple of weeks on something that could be included in this package,” Senator Gillibrand said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also expressed optimism regarding working with Senators Manchin and Sinema on the Senate’s version of the BBB. “Everyone knows that Manchin and Sinema have their concerns, but we’re going to try to negotiate with them and get a very strong, bold bill out of the Senate which will then go back to the House and pass,” Senator Schumer said.
President may be flexible on bill.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki indicated during the November 19, 2021 White House press briefing that President Joseph Biden would like to see paid family and medical leave in the final version of the BBB. However, Biden also indicated that he would consider signing the BBB whether his main priorities end up in the bill or not.
When asked what the backup plan would be for President Biden if paid family and medical leave does not make the final version of the bill, Press Secretary Psaki said he would continue with efforts to make it law. Since Senator Manchin has previously indicated his support for the paid leave provision, but just not in the BBB legislation, this may be promising for supporters of the measure down the road if it does not make the final version of the bill.
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