President Biden Signs Landmark COVID-19 Aid Legislation Passed by Congress in Near Party-Line Votes
President Joe Biden signed his landmark $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package (H.R. 1319) into law yesterday – the largest injection of federal cash in history into a growing U.S. economy – before unemployment benefits begin expiring on March 14. (Politico March 9, Wall Street Journal March 10 and AP, March 11)
Why It Matters
- The total economic stimulus passed by the U.S. government over the past year now totals $5.3 trillion. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is the third and largest coronavirus relief package. (U.S. News and World Report, March 10 and Axios Capital, Mach 11)
- President Biden commented during the signing ceremony of the relief package, “…this historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving people in this nation — working people and middle-class folks, the people who built the country — a fighting chance. That’s what the essence of it is.” (White House, March 11, Remarks by President Biden at Signing of the American Rescue Plan)
- Key provisions of the new law are detailed in The Roundtable’s "Summary and Analysis of Key Economic Provisions in The American Rescue Plan." Recovery rebates of $1,400 for the vast majority of Americans and large one-year expansions of the child and child care tax credits are provided, along with increases in subsidies for health insurance and the earned income tax credit. Additional provisions include:
- $350 billion in direct fiscal aid to state and local governments
- $242 billion to extend enhanced unemployment benefits through Sept. 6
- $170 billion for educational institutions
- $28.6 billion for a Restaurant Revitalization Fund
- $26.1 billion for urban mass transit grants
- $21.55 billion for residential rental assistance
- $5 billion for tenant-based residential rental vouchers
- The bill does not include an extension of the current eviction moratorium for residential tenants or an increase in the federal minimum wage.
- While there is little business tax relief in the bill, provisions excluding restaurant and small business grants from income tax should further strengthen The Roundtable’s push to exclude COD income from tax during the pandemic, particularly since The Roundtable has explicitly proposed that the exclusion be accompanied by offsetting adjustments to tax attributes.
- The Roundtable is also continuing to urge Congress to enact the Retail Revitalization Act (H.R. 840) as part of its relief efforts. This bill would save thousands of retail jobs by allowing REITs to make equity investments in struggling tenants without violating current related-party rent rules. The bipartisan bill is cosponsored by a growing list of Ways and Means Committee Members. (Roundtable Weekly, Feb. 5, 2021)
- The Roundtable’s "Summary and Analysis of Key Economic Provisions in The American Rescue Plan"
- Fact sheet issued by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
- Joint Committee on Taxation revenue estimate of the tax provisions in the bill
- Congressional Research Service report on the bill's tax provisions
- Economists expect the legislation to spark 5.95% GDP growth, the fastest in nearly 40 years, according to a recent survey by the Wall Street Journal. The poll also reports that economists expect consumer prices will rise 2.48% by December, compared to last year, and projects employers will add an average 514,000 jobs per month over the next four quarters. (Wall Street Journal, March 10)
Congressional Democrats passed the massive relief package using a budget process called reconciliation that requires a simple majority vote, bypassing the 60-vote requirement typically needed to advance most legislation in the 50-50 Senate. It is uncertain whether Democrats will opt to take a similar approach to other major policy initiatives as President Biden prepares his next major legislative push on infrastructure.
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Infrastructure Legislation Next on Biden Agenda; Michael Regan Confirmed as EPA Administrator
The Biden Administration plans to move forward on its “Build Back Better” infrastructure initiative as the next legislative push to spur the economy after he signed the COVID-19 relief package yesterday. (CNBC, March 10 and New York Times, March 3)
Why It Matters
- A $312 billion bill was introduced yesterday by House Democrats on the Energy & Commerce (E&C) Committee that would invest in clean energy, drinking water, broadband, and health care infrastructure. LIFT America Act (text, section-by-section analysis, press release).
- House E&C Democrats last week introduced a sprawling climate change bill, the CLEAN Future Act, which includes provisions on building energy codes, energy benchmarking, and SEC public company reporting on climate risks. (Roundtable Weekly, March 5)
- More bills are forthcoming on matters addressing highways, mass transit and other surface transportation, as well as energy and infrastructure tax-related matters. In the House, these bills are expected from Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Richard Neal (D-MA), chairs of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Ways and Means Committee, respectively.
- How to pay for the price tag of these measures remains an overriding issue. Possible revenue sources for infrastructure investments were discussed by the White House with a bipartisan group of Senate leaders on Feb. 11, and House leaders on March 4. (Roundtable Weekly, Feb. 12 and Feb. 19, and Reuters, March 4)
Congressional Committees’ Influence
- Capitol Hill hearings this week focused on various aspects of low-carbon energy, climate-resilient infrastructure and transportation issues. (Axios, March 8, “Energy and climate move closer to center stage on Capitol Hill”) The House Energy Committee will start hearings next week on its CLEAN Future Act (E&C press release, March 11)
- Senate Energy Committee Chairman Joe Manchin (R-WV), above, told "Axios on HBO" that he will seek tax increases to pay for Biden's upcoming proposal, and will use his leadership position to pursue bipartisan solutions to climate realities.
- Manchin said the budget process called reconciliation should not be pursued to pass the climate and infrastructure package. Reconciliation was used to advance the pandemic relief bill without Republican support in the 50-50 Senate. (Axios, “Manchin’s Next Power Play,” March 8).
- Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) told Bloomberg this week that a transportation infrastructure package could move through his committee by the end of May and signed into law as part of a broader economic recovery plan by the end of September. (Bloomberg, March 10)
Michael Regan Confirmed as EPA Administrator
- Michael Regan was confirmed this week as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He will apply his experience as North Carolina’s environmental chief to broad federal policies addressing climate change and energy efficiency. (E&E News and Reuters, March 10)
The Real Estate Roundtable, as part of the Build by the 4th coalition, is encouraging Congress to pass a comprehensive infrastructure package by Independence Day 2021. The Roundtable's Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) is also focused on climate and energy regulations on buildings emerging at the state and local level.
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