NAICU Washington Update

House Passes Build Back Better Bill

November 19, 2021

After months of Democratic intraparty turmoil, and an unexpected delay last night by the House Republican leader, who essentially filibustered the bill for eight hours, the House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Reconciliation bill by a vote of 220-213. 

House Democrats were able to come to an agreement to move the bill once the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released the full cost estimate. Because Democrats needed all members to vote for the bill, a handful of centrists wanted to be reassured of the limited impact on the deficit before voting for the $1.7 trillion package. According to the summary, “CBO estimates that enacting this legislation would result in a net increase in the deficit totaling $367 billion over the 2022-2031 period, not counting any additional revenue that may be generated by additional funding for tax enforcement.” This estimate reassured Democrats who were on the fence that the bill is sufficiently paid for over 10 years. 

For student aid and higher education, the estimate confirms that the cost of the $550 increase in the Pell Grant maximum is $12.3 billion over four years, which includes the expansion of eligibility for federal student aid and programmatic interactions. The Pell Grant cost was the only unknown score in the higher education section, as the other provisions were spelled out in the legislation.  

While the House was preparing to vote, the Senate Parliamentarian has been reviewing the bill provisions to ensure they meet the privileged parameters of reconciliation rules for Senate consideration. Senate leaders hope this preview will facilitate a smooth transition to debate when they return from Thanksgiving. 

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