The Build Back Better Act in a Legislative Lull

2021 was a busy legislative year. A new administration took office. The American Rescue Plan was enacted in March. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) was signed into law in November. The last major piece of legislation the Biden administration sought to enact in 2021 was the Build Back Better Act (BBBA). But in the face of opposition by some moderate Democratic Senators regarding certain policy provisions and its price tag, the BBBA did not make it through the Senate by December 31. With the calendar having turned the page to 2022, what is the future of the BBBA?
With a recent Supreme Court retirement announcement, global affairs issues and voting rights legislation, both Congress and the administration have much on their plate as we enter February 2022. With such a crowded agenda, the BBBA seems to have faded of late. Nonetheless, the bill has what appear to be three possible paths ahead.
First, the bill could get new life and be taken up in its current form, or close to it, in the Senate.  Given the opposition to some of the bill’s policy provisions, recent comments from a Senator about the bill’s being “dead,” and its price tag--even after the bill was reduced by nearly half over the past several months--it seems unlikely that it would pass the Senate in a form close to what it was in December.
Second, the bill could simply die on the vine. Having entered 2022, and with midterm elections on the calendar in November, it may be too difficult to revive any part of the bill this year.
Finally, the bill could be split up into separate pieces of legislation. While some provisions in the current bill do not have adequate support to ensure passage in the Senate, some provisions likely do. For example, climate issues, energy provisions, and tax matters could be taken up in separate bills or included in other legislative packages, such as the fiscal year 2022 spending bill. If legislative priorities are addressed this way, we may see these provisions revived or even enacted into law throughout the year.
One thing is certain: No matter how powerful a crystal ball one can find it cannot predict what is going to happen in an unpredictable legislative year. As events develop, we will follow them and provide our insights along the way.


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