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On the Hill: Bipartisan Infrastructure Talks Continue

Senators continue efforts to build consensus on a $1.2 trillion bipartisan physical infrastructure proposal introduced last week, but Democrats are taking steps to initiate the budget reconciliation process in case those talks ultimately fall short.

The bipartisan proposal, led by a group of 10 senators, was announced after months-long negotiations between the Biden administration and Senate Republicans fell apart. According to media reports, the new, eight-year plan includes roughly $579 billion in new spending and does not call for income or corporate tax increases. Instead, the proposal would be paid for, in part, by recouping unallocated COVID-19 relief funds and through an “infrastructure financing authority.”

So far, 21 senators have expressed support for the new proposal, but several liberal lawmakers are concerned the burgeoning deal does not go far enough, particularly because it excludes policies to mitigate climate change and improve long-term care.

Paying for the proposal remains a critical sticking point in negotiations. Republicans recently proposed increasing taxes for gas and electric vehicles, but the idea was met with harsh criticism from several Democrats concerned that such taxes would be regressive. President Joe Biden this week is expected to discuss the proposal with senators on both sides of the aisle.

Meanwhile, the House is taking steps to bring its $547 billion surface transportation bill for a vote as early as next week, ahead of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) July Fourth deadline. The five-year plan will be the basis for a broader infrastructure package, which is still taking shape.

Democratic leaders are simultaneously initiating the budget reconciliation process, which would only require a majority vote, to pass an infrastructure package if bipartisan conversations fail. Lawmakers are working to include components of the president’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, as well as other Democratic priorities, with a price tag that could reach up to $6 trillion. Media reports indicate the package ultimately could include health care proposals, such as expanding Medicare coverage to include vision, hearing, and dental care and reducing prescription drug prices.

Notable Hearings

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a June 22 hearing to examine COVID-19 vaccine data.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee will hold a June 24 hearing on advancing health equity and public health through data use. America’s Essential Hospitals has endorsed several bills that will be featured in the hearing, including the Improving Social Determinants of Health Act (H.R. 379), Data to Save Moms Act (H.R. 925), Social Determinants for Moms Act (H.R. 943), and Social Determinants Accelerator Act (H.R. 2503).

The Senate Committee on Finance will meet June 24 to consider Biden administration nominees, including Melanie Egorin for assistant secretary of health and human services.

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About the Author

Christina Fagnano is the legislative affairs associate at America's Essential Hospitals.

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