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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - August 9, 2021

Infrastructure Package Advances; Democrats Release Budget Resolution


Washington Update

Infrastructure Package

On Sunday, August 8, the Senate voted 68-29 to invoke cloture on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package - setting up a final vote for late Monday night or early Tuesday. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA) has made it clear she will not take up the infrastructure package until the Senate passes the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion domestic policy package. The bipartisan legislation is the result of months of negotiations between a bipartisan group of senators and is a win for both parties.

It features $550 billion in new federal spending over five years. The measure invests $110 billion in funding toward roads, bridges and major projects, $66 billion in passenger and freight rail, $65 billion to rebuild the electric grid, $65 billion to expand broadband Internet access, and $39 billion to modernize and expand transit systems. The bill also includes $55 billion for water infrastructure, $15 billion of which will be directed toward replacing lead pipes. While senators are confident the bill will pass the upper chamber, its future in the House remains uncertain.

Click here to access the full bill.

Appropriations

On Monday, August 9, Senate Democrats released the text of their $3.5 trillion budget resolution, the first step toward bypassing a filibuster in order to pass President Biden’s domestic policy/human capital investment package that would fund education initiatives such as universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year olds and tuition-free community college, and increase the maximum Pell Grant award. The framework also calls for spending on school infrastructure, student success grants, and “educator investments” as well as funding for workforce training programs.

The budget resolution instructs congressional committees to prepare legislation by mid-September to carry out the top-line budget numbers outlined in the proposal. Under the plan, the Senate HELP Committee will be responsible for producing legislative proposals that cost $726 billion over the next decade. It’s not yet clear how much funding will be allocated to the various education and workforce proposals or precisely how they will be structured, but Senate HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray (WA) will lead negotiations as committee members hammer out those details in the coming weeks.

The Senate is expected to start voting on the budget as soon as Tuesday, August 10, after it completes work on the bipartisan infrastructure plan, before leaving for its August recess.

Click here to access the FY22 Budget Resolution Framework memorandum.

Click here to access the full Concurrent Resolution legislation.

Department of Labor Nominations

On Tuesday, August 3, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee deadlocked 11-11 along party lines on David Weil’s nomination to serve another term as administrator of the Labor Department's Wage and Hour division. He previously ran the division during the Obama administration. Now the committee has to notify the Secretary of the Senate of the tie vote and Weil will have to wait on the Senate to vote on a motion to discharge his nomination before he can be fully confirmed. When he oversaw the Wage and Hour division during the Obama administration, Weil took the position that “most” workers should be considered employees under federal minimum wage law, and took a broad approach to joint employer enforcement.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

On Wednesday, August 4, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, on a vote of 19-2, approved the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (S. 1486 (117)), which would require businesses with more than 15 employees to provide pregnant workers with "reasonable accommodation," including additional bathroom breaks and exemptions from lifting requirements. The House passed its version of the bill in May. Under current law, employers are required only to not discriminate against employees or potential hires on the basis of their pregnancy and are not legally bound to provide any kind of accommodation by modifying their responsibilities. Senators Tommy Tuberville (AL) and Mike Braun (IN) voted against the bill.

Click here to learn more about the legislation.

Unemployment Rate

On Friday, August 6, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the July jobs report that indicated the economy added 943,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate ticked down to 5.4 percent - a sign that labor market growth is gaining the steam needed to get back to where it was before the pandemic. However, since the survey is typically taken in the second week, economic concerns over the Delta variant likely didn’t show up in the figure. The unemployment rate for Black Americans remained high at 8.2 percent and the number of people who are ‘long-term’ unemployed made up nearly 40 percent of unemployed workers last month. For the first time, average pay in restaurants and supermarkets climbed above $15 an hour.

Click here to access the full report.

Click here to read Secretary Walsh’s statement on the jobs report.

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