The COVID-19 pandemic hit the unprepared United States in 2020 and reshaped its future, and as of today, the problem remains unsolved. It is more than a health crisis —the pandemic resulted in the greatest unemployment crisis since the Great Depression. With pandemic reconstruction being the main focus of the 2020 presidential debate, the newly elected President Joe Biden proposed his solution to the problem: the Build Back Better bill.
What is the Build Back Better Bill (BBB)?
It is a broad bill that includes almost all aspects of President Biden's approach to repairing the United States with a strong, stable global economy. The bill wants the United States to be more than what it was before the pandemic—as the name stated, it wants the country to build back "better".
A keyword on this long list of social programs and policies is "affordability". Combating economic inequality is the White House's top priority and policies and actions to promote affordability in this bill mainly focus on advocating for universal education and supporting low-income families.
Examples include universal free Pre-K education, affordable child care, affordable housing, affordable Medicare services, Medicaid, and Pell grants, which focus on efforts to expand educational opportunities and community colleges. It would also apply tax cuts for families with children and childcare support, which means increasing the child tax credit from $2,000 to $3,000 for children ages six and older.
As unemployment has become one of the biggest concerns during the pandemic era, the BBB plan decided to protect domestic workers as well. Labor violation penalty enforcement will be put into practice and a 4-week paid leave for workers' major events will be ensured. These issues have been a frustration for many American workers, and the Build Back Better plan will act to erase them in the future.
The BBB will also target climate change issues, especially as an effort to compensate for the failures seen during Trump's presidency. Climate change programs and policies in the Build Back Better plan will be tackling the United States's two largest sources of emissions: transportation and electric power. Furthermore, land preservation and weatherization control are also included with billions of funding.
Fossil fuel emissions will be controlled through taxation policies: there will be both tax credits and grants for businesses and communities working towards clean energy initiatives and payments and fines for businesses with large fossil fuel emissions. The BBB also includes 3.3 billion dollars of wildfire risk reduction, specifically in states like California, as well as a 2 million dollars budget for forest management. President Biden's goal is to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 52% by 2030.
However, keep in mind that this plan would require a total of 2.2 trillion dollars of funding for all programs to be implemented.
What has been done?
On November 19, 2021, the Build Back Better bill was passed 220–213 by the House of Representatives. However, the bill failed in the Senate, because of the lack of Republican support and West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin's opposition to it. In Manchin's statement, he clarified that "[he] cannot take that risk with a staggering debt of more than $29 trillion and inflation taxes that are real and harmful to every hard-working American at the gasoline pumps, grocery stores, and utility bills with no end in sight" and that "the American people deserve transparency on the true cost of the Build Back Better Act."
With the original Build Back Better Bill very unlikely to pass in the Senate, Democrat colleagues have been negotiating with Manchin for his support to be back on the table. Democrats in the capitol have now agreed to break the plan up into sections and at least pass some cores of it —for example, climate change policies. During a press conference, President Biden revealed that the bill would be rewritten from scratch, and he believes that at least the 500 billion dollar support for climate change would be passed eventually, yet free community college and child care programs may be cut from the plan to keep the cost down.
Manchin says that a lot of work still lies ahead, but the Senate does not have enough time to start over. Two months have passed since the House passed the Build Back Better plan, yet the U.S. Senate has paused its negotiations over the Build Back Better Act, as now the Senate's focus becomes the Voting Rights Act.
President Biden's legacies still require much time to be written in history, and as the political polarization in Capitol Hill grows stronger by day, the country awaits the White House to reconstruct society.
"Biden Emphasizes Need for Build Back Better, Citing a More Just Tax System – as It Happened." The Guardians, 21 Jan. 2022, www.theguardian.com/us-news/live/2022/jan/21/joe-biden-build-back-better-democrats-us-politics-live-updates.Accessed 23 Jan. 2022.
Aguilar, Elise. "Build Back Better Act Remains on Hold as Senate Takes up Voting Rights Legislation." Ancor, 18 Jan. 2022, www.ancor.org/newsroom/news/build-back-better-act-remains-hold-senate-takes-voting-rights-legislation.Accessed 23 Jan. 2022.
Dellatto, Marisa. "'Build Back Better' May Be 'Dead,' but These Key Portions Will Pass, Sen. Kaine Says." Forbes, 16 Jan. 2022, www.forbes.com/sites/ marisadellatto/2022/01/16/build-back-better-may-be-dead-but-these-key-portions-will-pass-sen-kaine-says/?sh=1727a11e7d40. Accessed 23 Jan. 2022.
Lebar, Rebecca. "Democrats May Have to Sacrifice Something Big for the Climate."Vox, 21 Jan. 2022, www.vox.com/2022/1/21/22892382/joe-manchin-climate-change-biden-negotiations-bbb. Accessed 23 Jan. 2022.
Salem, Erum. "What's Actually in Biden's Build Back Better Bill? And How Would It Affect You?" The Guardian, 21 Oct. 2022, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/oct/18/what-is-build-back-better-crash-course. Accessed 23 Jan. 2022.