The House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better (BBB) Act this morning, sending the more than $1.75 trillion reconciliation package to the Senate. The bill includes billions for supply chain resiliency, as well as additional cybersecurity and IT modernization funding.

The House passed the “soft infrastructure” spending bill by a party-line vote of 220-213, with one Democrat joining Republicans in dissenting and one Republican not voting.

“Today, the United States House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act to take another giant step forward in carrying out my economic plan to create jobs, reduce costs, make our country more competitive, and give working people and the middle class a fighting chance,” President Biden said in a statement following its passage.

“Together with the bipartisan infrastructure law, it makes the most significant investment in our fight against the climate crisis ever by creating jobs that build a clean energy future for our children and grandchildren,” he added.

The bill, combined with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that was signed into law Nov. 15, represents a chunk of Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan. The bills had initially been linked in their legislative processes, but the House passed the infrastructure bill Nov. 5, after receiving guarantees from some moderate holdouts that they would vote on BBB this week.

Tech Provisions

While the bill largely focuses on “soft infrastructure” like universal Pre-K and the Child Tax Credit, the bill also includes a number of consequential tech provisions, including $5 billion for supply chain resiliency, billions for IT modernization, and millions for cyber.

The bill also gives the IRS $4.75 billion for the modernization of its business systems. Beyond that chunk of funding, an amendment to the bill crafted by House Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and offered by Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., would add $250 million of Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) funding as part of a larger $500 million proposal to advance IT modernization programs.

“As Chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the General Services Administration, IT modernization, US Postal Service, and Offices of Inspector General, I look forward to conducting robust oversight of the more than $13 billion in subcommittee funding included in the Build Back Better Act, particularly the provisions dedicated to improving the federal IT infrastructure,” Connolly said in a statement today.

“I thank our Leadership for recognizing that If we don’t get the IT right, it will be nearly impossible to implement this transformative legislation,” he added. “As we embark on the implementation of this once in a generation legislation, I remain committed to ensuring these investments are truly transformative and make government work better.”

Also falling under Connolly’s purview, the bill also includes $5.985 billion to electrify the United States Postal Service Vehicle Fleet, $3 billion to electrify the General Services Administration’s (GSA) vehicle fleet, $200 million to the GSA’s Federal Citizen Services Fund and $50 million to the Office of Management and Budget’s Information Technology Oversight and Reform Fund (ITOR).

Outside of funding supply chain, modernization, and cyber projects, BBB also tags $1.52 billion for the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) for emerging tech research, and $470 million to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to transition to a Next Generation 911 system.

BBB also gives the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) $400 million for cybersecurity activities, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) $190 million for cyber activities, and the Office of the Secretary of Homeland Security $500 million for the Office of Chief Readiness Support Officer.

The CISA funding breaks down as follows:

TMF Forward
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  • $100 million for improving Federal information systems;
  • $100 million to increase cyber awareness;
  • $50 million for the industrial control system (ICS) cybersecurity program CyberSentry;
  • $50 million for secure cloud architecture;
  • $50 million for research operation technology and ICS;
  • $35 million for a Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center; and
  • $15 million for a cyber upskilling and training program

The rest of the bill’s tech provisions are:

  • $500 million to the Federal Trade Commission to create a data security bureau;
  • $300 million for the Emergency Connectivity Fund;
  • $295 million for the NTIA to create a pilot program to invest in projects from public-private partnerships that are aimed at increasing affordable broadband;
  • $100 million to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for broadband affordability outreach;
  • $25 million for NIST for security research activities; and
  • $20 million for the NTIA to administer grants related to the Next Generation 911 program;
  • $9 million for the Next Generation 911 cybersecurity center; and
  • $7 million to create a “Future of Telecommunications Council” aimed at examining the future of 6G telecommunications.

Over to the Senate

After a long, winding path through the House of Representatives, the bill will now head over to the Senate for the next action. Armed with both a Congressional Budget Office score and with the Senate parliamentarian having already scrubbed the bill to make sure none of the provisions ran afoul of reconciliation privileges, the ball is now in the court of the upper chamber.

“The House has taken an important step to advance Build Back Better to cut middle-class taxes; invest in childcare, universal pre-K, affordable housing; lower Rx costs; fight climate change; create jobs; more,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a tweet. “We will act as quickly as possible to get this bill to [President Biden’s] desk.”

The Senate is currently working to pass the fiscal year (FY) 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with a vote expected before the chamber leaves for Thanksgiving. When the Senate returns, the chamber also has the fight to sign a continuing resolution by Dec. 3, raise the debt shortly after, and fit consideration of the BBB into its already tight schedule.

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.
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