Congressional Update: Democrats To Move Relief Package; No Timeline For Infrastructure, Energy

Congressional Democrats are pressing forward for a vote this week or during the weekend, on President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

House Committees finalized their portions of the package, setting the stage for passage via budget reconciliation – a complex legislative tool that could allow Democrats to pass the package with a simple majority vote.

Some notable provisions important to energy marketers include extending the employee retention tax credit through December 31, 2021, tax credits for employer-provided paid sick and family leave through September 30 and providing an additional $4.5 billion to LIHEAP.

The legislation is expected to pass the House but will face hurdles in the Senate for two notable reasons.

First, 50 Senate votes are required for passage, meaning a defection from a single Senate Democrat could cause the vote to fail.

Second, the Senate has more strict rules on which types of provisions and policy decisions can be included in a reconciliation bill (known as the “Byrd Rule”).

The Senate Parliamentarian could remove certain provisions, such as a $15 minimum wage, proposed in the House package.

President Biden urged Congress to pass COVID relief by mid-March, before pandemic-related unemployment benefits expire, while he continues to press for additional policy priorities.

Infrastructure/Clean Energy

To this end, President Biden sees a vast, multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure / clean energy package as the second part of his Build Back Better plan (the first being a COVID-relief package) to rebuild the American economy.

The Biden Administration initially signaled it would immediately turn to infrastructure in the spring, however, his Administration would not commit to a timeline.

Further, in a meeting with Senate leaders, President Biden did not mention a topline infrastructure funding amount despite campaigning on a $2 trillion infrastructure package.

Recognizing a possible delay in a large infrastructure package, Congress must prepare to extend key infrastructure funding such as surface transportation reauthorization.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee scheduled its first surface transportation reauthorization hearing for later in the month.

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