Washington Watch: House passes BBB; Eyes on Senate

After weeks of negotiation among Democrats, House on Friday passed the Build Back Better (BBB) Act (H.R. 5376) by the narrowest of margins, 220-213. 

The BBB is fiscal year 2022 budget “reconciliation” legislation, which means that it needs only a simple majority to pass the Senate, and all eyes will now focus even more intensively on that chamber’s deliberations.

The $1.7 trillion legislation as passed is roughly half the size of the bill originally advanced by House committees, with education bearing disproportionate cuts, almost 80%. Nevertheless, as has been reported, the BBB contains items that would tremendously benefit community colleges and their students. AACC has endorsed the legislation.

Items of interest include:

  • Two major job training programs focused on community colleges; expenditures total three times funding for the now-lapsed Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program. One of the two programs is a revived TAACCCT, providing $1.2 billion over four years.
  • Substantial investments in workforce programs, including sector partnerships, apprenticeships and additional funding for WIOA, Perkins Act and Adult Education Act.
  • Major additional support for historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions.
  • An increase in the Pell Grant maximum, for four years, of $550, in addition to any other amounts provided through the appropriations process. 
  • Suspension of taxation of Pell Grants for four years, along with changes to the American Opportunity Tax Credit that would allow hundreds of thousands of low-income Pell Grant recipients to qualify for the $2,500 credit.
  • A five-year, $500 million investment in college completion that marks an important new role for the federal government, even though funding is far below the $62 billion originally proposed by the Biden administration and the $9 billion advanced by the House Committee on Education and Labor.

The bill’s dramatic expansion of the federal role in childcare, which includes new subsidies to parents, increased compensation for providers and direct support for childcare centers, should enhance the general conditions on which community colleges might establish or expand childcare centers.

In addition, the just-passed Infrastructure Act should vastly increase demand for community college job training in many areas — and in this respect, the BBB is a necessary complement to the Infrastructure Act.

Up next

The BBB next heads to the Senate, where very public negotiations among Democrats have been occurring for months, with particular focus on Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia). The legislation will almost certainly be modified in the Senate, and, if it passes that chamber, it will be sent back to the House for further action. Senate Majority leader Charles Schumer (D-New York) has stated that he hopes the legislation will clear the Senate by Christmas. 

About the Author

David Baime
is senior vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.