HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — There are two bills in Congress that Democrats are working to push through that could bring money to the Rio Grande Valley. A bill that would improve infrastructure around the country and the other will improve social safety nets and tackle climate change.
For months lawmakers have debated these bills. The infrastructure bill passed the Senate with 19 Republicans voting in favor, putting the bill over the necessary “supermajority” of 60 votes that makes the bill filibuster-proof.
The other bill, President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan, is the main thing holding back the pair of bills. Progressive and moderate Democrats are going back and forth over the price tag of the bill that Democrats plan to pass with a process known as “budget reconciliation”.
Budget reconciliation is a process that amends the budget and allows Congress to fund different projects. Unlike other pieces of legislation, it cannot be filibustered, so only a simple majority of 51 can pass it.
Currently, the Senate is split 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats plus two Independent Senators that usually vote in step with the Democrats. As part of her duties as Vice President, Kamala Harris is the president of the Senate and can cast a tie-breaking vote in favor of the Democrats.
While the Senate debates the overall price tag of the Build Back Better plan, the House of Representatives returns to session later this month and Congressman Henry Cuellar is confident a vote will take place over the bills.
“This bill is going to pass, along with reconciliation,” Cuellar said in a virtual talk with business and city leaders in his Texas 28th Congressional district. “It’s just a matter of where or when we get there.”
The infrastructure bill would provide money to improve roads, upgrade water pipes from lead piping to a safer material, as well as improve internet access to areas with bad broadband connections like the Rio Grande Valley.
The roughly one trillion dollar price tag will be spent over a 10 year period at around $100 billion a year.
“When Texas gets 30 billion dollars, that means that our area – Congressional district 28 and other areas – we are going to get hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars so we can move our projects up,” Cuellar said.
The Build Back Better plan would extend the child tax credit through 2026, give assistance to families paying for Pre-K, and expand Medicare coverage.
Cuellar said the plan could potentially expand Medicaid as well. Medicaid was expanded under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, in 2010. Several states, including Texas, did not expand Medicaid coverage.
“There are some people that are not getting any assistance,” Cuellar said. Exactly what would be expanded is still being worked over according to Cuellar, but he supported expanding both Medicare and Medicaid “so we can help the people that have no coverage at all.”
President Biden has said that he wants the Build Back Better plan to have $3.5 trillion of spending. Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, has stated that the price was too high and he wouldn’t support it, instead suggesting a $1.5 trillion package.
Cuellar said that President Biden told the Democratic Caucus that the final amount would most likely be between $1.9 trillion and $2.5 trillion.
When asked taxes would increase on the middle class to help pay for the plan, Cuellar said they would not. The Build Back Better plan will be paid for in part by increasing the corporate tax rate from 26% to 28% as well as raising taxes on people making more than $400,000 a year.
“The way it’s being talked about – because there’s nothing final – at least the way Ritchie Neal” from the “Ways and Means Committee, there will be no taxes on the middle class,” Cuellar said.