The leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Racial Equity Initiative would like several retirement initiatives to be included in the ongoing infrastructure package negotiations.
Congress should expand coverage in employer retirement plans, make the saver’s credit — a credit for people who contribute to a retirement plan or individual retirement account and make under an IRS-designated income threshold — refundable, and create automatic individual retirement accounts for workers, according to a memo written by the Racial Equity Initiative co-chairs, Reps. Terri A. Sewell, D-Ala., Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., and Steven Horsford, D-Nev., to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass.
The lawmakers would also like the package to improve Social Security benefits for caregivers and families.
“Together, Congress and the administration can meet this historic moment by wielding federal policy to mitigate adverse experiences and outcomes associated with generations of systemic discrimination and racism,” the lawmakers said in the memo, which included a host of recommendations on a variety of issues. “These vehicles represent rare opportunities to advocate for restorative and transformative legislation and equally intentional implementation by the executive branch.”
Mr. Neal welcomed the recommendations and said in a statement that, “With Congress poised to make historic investments in our nation’s physical and human infrastructure, we must ensure these bold new policies are inclusive and equitable.”
The Racial Equity Initiative was formed in March to lead the committee’s work on addressing the role of racism and other forms of discrimination in perpetuating health and economic inequalities in the U.S.
Lawmakers are currently negotiating two infrastructure packages of varying scopes and sizes. In June, the White House and a group of 10 bipartisan senators announced they’ve reached a deal that includes $579 billion in new spending for “core infrastructure” — to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges, water, broadband and rail systems, among other improvements.
A procedural motion to move forward with a bipartisan infrastructure deal failed July 21 in the Senate, but a group of Republicans and Democrats are still optimistic the package will ultimately pass.
Senators voted 49-51 on a motion to begin debate on the proposal, but 60 votes were needed. All 50 Republicans voted against the motion as did Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who did so to be able to reintroduce the motion in the future.
Republicans voted against the motion because members have said the actual bill is still being written.
“We made significant progress and are close to a final agreement,” a group of 22 senators — 12 Democrats and 10 Republicans — said in a statement after the vote. “We will continue working hard to ensure we get this critical legislation right — and are optimistic that we will finalize, and be prepared to advance, this historic bipartisan proposal to strengthen America’s infrastructure and create good-paying jobs in the coming days.”
Late last week, the bipartisan group agreed to pay for the package in part by delaying a costly Trump-era Medicare regulation, but they don’t expect to announce details until at least July 26.
Any deal could still face resistance from Democrats on both sides of the Capitol, making the prospects uncertain as the bipartisan group works out the final sticking points.
Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, a typically reliable Democratic vote and ally of President Joe Biden, signaled July 22 that he would object if negotiators didn’t include more funding for water and sanitation. Other Democrats in the 50-50 Senate have raised concerns about funding for their own priorities, like high-speed rail.
The Medicare rule eliminates rebates drug companies give benefit managers in Medicare Part D and was aimed at reducing out-of-pocket costs for patients outside Medicare. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that repealing the rule would cut federal Medicare spending by about $177 billion over a decade.
“We had an agreement on 99% when we walked out yesterday afternoon,” Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, one of 22 senators negotiating the infrastructure deal, said in an interview. “The pay-fors are pretty much lined up.”
Bloomberg contributed to this story.