Public Policy Update - June 2021
Each month, SECF provides members with monthly updates on the latest public policy developments in Washington and state capitols around the region, analyzing their possible impact on the charitable sector. If you would like to see an issue featured in a future Public Policy Update, contact Jaci Bertrand, SECF's vice president of member engagement, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Infrastructure Talks Continue, But Bipartisan Compromise Seems Unlikely
In previous Public Policy Updates, we detailed the provisions of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan. Since then, both measures have been the subject of prolonged negotiations between the White House and Senate Republicans aimed at producing a bipartisan agreement.
While President Biden met today with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), the Senate GOP’s lead negotiator on the package, an agreement still seems unlikely. Both sides have moved somewhat from their earliest positions, but they are still separated by more than a trillion dollars.
Pressure is growing from congressional Democrats to abandon hope for a bipartisan deal and forge ahead with a larger package more in tune with Biden’s original proposals. Passing such a bill would require the use of the fast-track reconciliation process employed for the COVID relief bill signed into law earlier this year.
While the American Jobs Plan is focused primarily on physical infrastructure and public works, the American Families Plan includes funding to boost many parts of the social safety net, including education, health care and childcare.
Prospects for Big Legislation Dim After Manchin Reiterates Filibuster Support
Since securing control of the Senate in January, Democrats had hoped to leverage their narrow majorities to pass significant legislation related to voting rights, climate change, health care and a host of other issues.
Advancing bills on any of these topics would have required weakening or eliminating the Senate filibuster, which effectively sets a 60-vote threshold for most legislation – the reconciliation process used for tax and spending legislation is a notable exception.
Any changes to the filibuster would require the support of all 50 Senate Democrats. Over the weekend, however, one of them signaled any change was off the table.
Writing in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) argued members of his party have demonized the filibuster, which he wrote can “make absolute power difficult while still delivering solutions to the issues facing our country.”
In expressing support for the filibuster, Manchin also indicated he would vote against a voting rights package due to its lack of Republican support. However, he still supports another bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, that would restore some parts of the Voting Rights Act nullified by the Supreme Court in 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder decision.
No Surprises in White House FY22 Budget Proposal
Last week, the White House released its proposed fiscal 2022 budget, which provides a starting point for negotiations in Congress that will take place over the remainder of the year.
The budget is mostly structured around the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, which have already been released. Of note, the proposal omits a number of tax increases President Biden campaigned on, including increasing the estate tax and capping itemized deductions at 28 percent for wealthy individuals. It also does not address many of the expiring tax changes from the 2017 tax bill, including the increased standard deduction, which led to far fewer Americans itemizing their taxes.
Sector-Wide Letter Sent to Congressional Leadership
In our last update we shared that SECF had joined dozens of other philanthropy-supporting organizations and foundations in signing a letter to congressional leadership and leaders of relevant committees, urging them to include the charitable organizations that would be directly impacted in any conversations around proposed reforms to the charitable sector.
The letter, which had 80 signatures from a host of national, regional, and state-based nonprofit organizations from across the country, was sent to congressional leadership and leaders of tax-writing committees on May 24.
The letter, which focuses on process rather than specific policy proposals, serves as a timely reminder for lawmakers to look to the charitable sector as a resource when thinking about proposals to reform philanthropy and to include the sector in any discussions early on.