The Democratic leaders of the House and Senate made official over the weekend what had become obvious by late last week: the hoped-for late September votes on two big Federal infrastructure funding bills were sliding into October.
Based on the latest forecasts from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the timeline for definitive legislative action on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package – which both remain heavily laden with tech and cyber-related Federal spending – most likely points to the latter part of October.
Timelines in Flux
As September came and went, the timeline for congressional Democrats to pass the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package shifted, and, with it, so did the timeline for House Democrats to pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that has already made its way through the Senate.
House Leadership had previously looked to pass the smaller of the infrastructure packages by the end of September, but, with intraparty discord over the price tag of the larger bill, progressives in the chamber refused to vote for the bill without the reconciliation first receiving a Senate vote.
Also up in the air is the extent to which the $3.5 trillion bill may be cut down in size to meet the demands of some Senate Democrats, and whether progressives in the House and Senate will agree to vote for a smaller version of that measure.
As of now, there is no concrete timeline for the passage of both bills, but both Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Schumer are angling toward the end of this month. Passing both bills by the end of October would match the current expiration date on reauthorized transportation funding included in the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act.
In a letter to Senate Democrats, Schumer said negotiators should be looking to make a deal on the final agreements of the reconciliation package, called the Build Back Better Act, within a “matter of days” in order to keep the chambers on pace to pass both bills by the end of the month.
With each bill carrying with it a multitude of Federal tech priorities, here’s a refresher of the funding in play for each bill.
A Refresher on What’s in the Infrastructure Bill
Despite a new timeline for passage in the House, nothing has yet to substantively change with the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The bill is set to contain $65 billion in broadband funding and another $2 billion for cybersecurity.
The broadband funding includes:
- $42.5 billion for a Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program;
- $14.2 billion for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program;
- $2.75 billion for a pair of Digital Equity grant programs;
- $2 billion for a tribal broadband connectivity fund;
- $2 billion for a rural telemedicine, distance learning, and broadband program;
- $1 billion for middle-mile infrastructure; and
- $100 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission’s High Speed Internet Initiative.
The $2 billion for cyber will go towards:
- $1 billion for state, local, tribal, and territorial government cybersecurity grants;
- $550 million for electric grid cybersecurity;
- $157 million for the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate to conduct cyber research and development;
- $140 million for a Cyber Incident Response Fund;
- $35 million to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) for risk management and stakeholder engagement; and
- $21 million to stand up the office of the National Cyber Director.
What’s at Stake in the Reconciliation Package
The price tag and programs included in the Build Back Better Act are still being renegotiated, as Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., are publicly opposed to the current $3.5-trillion top-line number.
While Manchin has said he’ll go no higher than $1.5 trillion, current reporting has President Biden and Rep. Pelosi floating price tags between $1.9 and $2.3 trillion to progressives. Given that progressives have enough votes to stop passage of either bill in the House and Democrats in the Senate need every vote to pass the reconciliation package, Biden, Pelosi, and Schumer are in for delicate intraparty negotiations.
The version of the package that the House put together features billions in funding for vehicle electrification, supply chain resilience, and IT modernization. Those items include:
- $12 billion for the electrification of the Federal vehicle fleet, and an amendment that would add $3.35 billion for Federal IT modernization.
- From that amendment, $1 billion would go to the Technology Modernization Fund, $2 billion would go to the General Service Administration’s (GSA) Federal Citizen Services Fund, and $350 million would go to the Office of Management and Budget’s Information Technology Oversight and Reform account.
- The Energy and Commerce Committee included:
- $10 billion for supply chain resiliency,
- $4 billion in additional funding for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program,
- $10 billion to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to transition to a Next Generation 9-1-1 system,
- $80 million to NTIA to build a Next Generation 9-1-1 Cybersecurity Center, and
- $10 million to create a 6G advisory board.
- The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology included:
- $1.195 billion to the National Institute of Standards and Technology for cybersecurity and emerging tech research, and
- $7 million to NASA for cybersecurity on other agency investments included in the print.
- The print that passed the Homeland Security Committee appropriates $856 million that will all go to CISA. That funding breaks down to:
- $400 million for the implementation of President Biden’s cyber executive order,
- $210 million for operations,
- $100 million to develop a cyber upskilling training education program,
- $50 million for the Crossfeed program,
- $50 million to establish a Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center,
- $25 million to help develop and execute a national multi-factor authentication campaign,
- $20 million for the agency to expand its programs that work with international partners to protect critical infrastructure, and
- $10 million to develop a continuity of economy plan, as required by the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, in the event the nation faces a major disruption.
- $1 billion to expand the child tax credit. A priority for that funding would be developing a tool that makes it easy for non-English speakers and non-tax filers to sign up.