What Democrats' Build Back Better bill would mean for Michigan

Washington — The U.S. House took a procedural vote late Friday to advance President Joe Biden's massive economic package and voted to approve a separate bipartisan infrastructure bill that will mean billions in funding for Michigan once signed into law.

Democrats said they are aiming to pass the sprawling $1.75 trillion social safety net and climate package later this month. Supporters hailed it as transformative for Michigan families and seniors with provisions for paid family leave, universal preschool, lower costs for some prescription drugs and expanded home care and child care help.

The legislation, known as the Build Back Better Act, also tackles lead service line replacement with $9 billion in funding that would funnel an estimated $300 million for Michigan. There's also $150 billion for housing, including expanded rental assistance and home repair aid, and expanded health insurance coverage through Medicaid that the White House has said would cover 95,000 uninsured people in Michigan. 

Additionally, the bill would give the three Detroit automakers a big boost over competitors through a $12,500 consumer rebate for electric vehicles, which includes $4,500 for cars built by union labor. 

"I am urging all members to vote for both the rule for consideration of the Build Back Better Act and final passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill tonight," Biden said in a statement late Friday before votes began.

"I am confident that during the week of November 15, the House will pass the Build Back Better Act."

House votes were delayed during the day Friday as some Democratic moderates pressed leadership for a full cost estimate of the social spending bill — something House Republicans also have been demanding. 

All seven Michigan Republicans in Congress signed onto a House GOP letter Thursday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi requesting a price tag on the bill scored by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office before a vote on the package. 

“Spending an additional $2 trillion on top of the nearly $5 trillion we have already approved in just the last year is reckless and premature,” said Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph, Michigan's senior Republican in the House.

“Inflation is surging, gas prices are spiking, paychecks are shrinking, and folks in Michigan and nationwide want us to turn off the printing presses in Washington."

But House Democrats got renewed momentum this week behind the Build Back Better package, as they shifted strategy and aimed to wrap up work on both it and the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill by week's end.

House passage of the bipartisan infrastructure legislation sends it to Biden's desk for his signature, as the Senate cleared it in August. The final vote was 228-206, with Upton among about a dozen Republicans in support.

Under that package, Michigan would receive at least $8 billion in federal funding over five years for highway and bridge projects, including $7.3 billion from federal highway programs and $563 million for bridge replacement and repairs, according to estimates by the White House based on transportation funding formulas. 

Michigan is slated to receive an additional $1 billion over five years to improve public transit options under the bipartisan measure. The package also includes $1 billion for the federal Great Lakes cleanup program over five years, $7.5 billion for a program to support building out an electric vehicle charging network and provisions to boost "Buy American" rules.

More:Michigan poised to get over $8B from Senate's bipartisan infrastructure bill

Nearly all House Democrats from Michigan have committed to supporting both bills, with the exception of U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a centrist from Holly, who has not said whether she would support the larger $1.75 billion as she reviews the text. 

"As an independently-minded Representative from an independently-minded district, I have a responsibility to actually read the full bill, understand the details & show our math," Slotkin said in a statement. 

"I’ll be working with my colleagues in the coming days to make sure we finish that process so we can take the next steps & deliver for our constituents."

Progressive lawmakers including Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, and Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, previously held up a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package until the Build Back Better text was ready for consideration. 

Tlaib said Friday she was disappointed at some cuts in the scaled-down version of Build Back Better and hoped the White House will work to beef up areas such as paid family leave and lead service line replacement, for which she said Michigan needs $1.65 billion to complete.

"My goal is to try to get them to fully fund it based on what they can get through the Senate," Tlaib said, adding that she would vote no on the bipartisan infrastructure bill known as BIF. 

"I’m not voting for BIF. It’s the one that the fossil fuel industry wrote. It has an Alaska pipeline. It relitigates the decision by Biden to shutdown the Keystone pipeline, and also what is really problematic for my district is the exclusion of environmental assessments for some of the large corporate polluters." 

She had hoped that some of the drawbacks she sees in the bipartisan package would be canceled out by passage of Build Back Better but is worried there's been no assurances that the 50-50 Senate can pass it.

"The fear that I have is BIF kills Build Back Better — the likelihood of us having the support that we need to get it done," she said. 

Democrats intend to pass the larger package using a procedure called budget reconciliation, whose rules let them pass the bill with a simple majority in the Senate instead of the 60 votes required to advance most bills. Once passed in the House, the package could be subject to changes in the Senate.

The White House has released some estimates on the potential impact of the Build Back Better plan for Michigan families including child care access for over 602,000 children ages 0 to 5 for families earning less than 250% of the state median income (about 224,200 for a family of four). 

The bill text would cap child care costs at 7% of household earnings for most families, with the rest covered by government subsidies. It would also extend an enhanced child tax credit of $3,000 rather than $2,000 for one year.

More:Pandemic broke child care in Michigan and elsewhere. Here's how Dems want to fix it

The provision to offer universal preschool would expand publicly funded preschool to 222,398 additional 3- and 4-year-olds in Michigan a year, which advocates say would have lifelong educational benefits for kids and help parents who want to return to work.

The White House has also estimated that an expansion of the free school meal program would mean access for an additional 352,000 students in Michigan during the school year and 832,300 eligible students with $65 a month to purchase food in the summer months — provisions that Sen. Debbie Stabenow worked on as chair of the agriculture committee.

Stabenow also has highlighted $2 billion for agricultural climate research and $27 billion in the package for forest restoration, wildfire prevention and "climate-smart" forestry practices. The senator included text to make community mental health and addiction treatment programs piloted in Michigan available in all states.

Other Michigan Democrats have worked behind the scenes with colleagues to lobby for their policy priorities including Rep. Debbie Dingell's legislation to expand home and community-based care for Medicaid that's included at a level of $150 billion.

Dingell has also touted $20 billion for a national green bank known as the Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator to spur the financing of renewable energy and emissions reduction projects, and $3 billion for her Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Future Act to revamp an Energy Department program retool auto factories.

The legislation includes several provisions to accelerate the number of electric vehicles on the road, including EV tax credits from Rep. Dan Kildee and Stabenow that would give consumers up to $12,500 off a new electric vehicle depending on whether it is produced domestically, by union labor and with significant battery range. 

A provision from Stabenow that would give manufacturers a 30% tax credit for building or retooling factories to produce clean energy products and set aside $4 billion over a decade for communities that have “experienced major job losses” in the auto industry since 1994.

Kildee fought for $1.2 billion in assistance for cities that have been hurt by trade, which his office says would benefit at least Bay City, Saginaw, Dearborn, Flint and Detroit.

Legislation pushed by Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, and Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, would put nearly $6 billion toward electrifying the U.S. Postal Service fleet. Peters also worked to include funding for programs supporting small and mid-sized manufacturers and technology R&D and to allocate $5 billion to increase supply chain resiliency.