Infrastructure Bill Signed, House Dems Push To Pass Build Back Better Act Before Thanksgiving & More: November 18 Joint Center Roundup

Biden Administration

The White House in Washington, DC

$1T infrastructure bill signed in law: President Biden on Monday signed the historic Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act in law, a bipartisan victory that will rebuild America’s roads, bridges, and rails, ensure every American has access to high-speed internet, tackle the climate crisis, and advance environmental justice, according to a White House fact sheet. Many of the Joint Center’s recommendations are in the bill, including a $65 billion investment in broadband infrastructure, provisions to end digital redlining, and establishing a permanent broadband benefit program for lower-income households.

Will infrastructure legislation deliver racial equity? Now that President Biden’s infrastructure bill is signed, Vox reports states will have most of the discretion over how the funds will be spent. As federal agencies begin to distribute the funds, The New York Times reports state officials will also largely determine whether infrastructure spending on broadband, transportation, and other projects will deliver on Biden’s policy commitment to racial equity. The challenge: Not every state shares the White House’s view of racial equity as a policy priority. Implementation of the infrastructure law, according to Roll Call, falls to federal infrastructure advisor Mitch Landrieu and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Increasing COVID-19 recovery investment in high-risk communities: The Biden Administration has announced new investments—including $785 million in American Rescue Plan funding—to support response and recovery efforts on behalf of communities and populations disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a White House fact sheet. A final report by the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force submitted to the White House Office of COVID-19 Response reveals that coronavirus deaths declined by nearly 90 percent in Black, brown, and indigenous communities, while disparities in vaccination rates between Black adults and white adults have closed.

Early challenges of Harris’s vice presidency: As the Biden Administration addresses and increases a number of legislative and political priorities, CNN reports that the staffs of the president and Vice President Harris continue to wrestle with mutually felt frustration, revealing a complex relationship between the roles, immediate priorities, and future political goals of both President Biden and Vice President Harris.

EPA chief tours communities impacted by pollution: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan will visit Houston Nov. 19 to conclude a tour of communities in the South where residents have been negatively impacted by pollution, Houston Public Media reports. The tour, which included stops in Jackson, MS and New Orleans, LA is primarily focused on neighborhoods where Black and Latino residents are disproportionately experiencing the negative health impacts of polluted environments.

The Hill

Dems push to pass Build Back Better bill: This week, House Democrats have prioritized passing the second half of President Biden’s domestic policy agenda, the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better bill, The Hill reports. While the Democratic legislators are pushing for passage before Thanksgiving, the Senate is unlikely to take action on the measure before December. However, Democratic leaders expressed confidence that the package can be passed and sent to President Biden to sign before the end of the year.

Record funding for HBCUs in Build Back Better measure: Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) are eagerly waiting for Congress to pass President Biden’s Build Back Better bill, NBC News reports. The massive bid to restore the nation’s social safety net includes $3 billion in funding for science, technology, engineering, and math programs at HBCUs and other minority-serving higher education institutions. Thurgood Marshall College Fund President and CEO Harry Williams says the funding would be a “game changer,” possibly helping HBCUs attain unprecedented status as first-tier research institutions.

World War II Veterans

Bill to grant benefits to descendants of Black WWII vets: House Majority Whip and U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-SC) released a statement announcing that he has joined with U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) to introduce legislation to provide full GI Bill benefits to descendants of Black World War II veterans. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) is also set to introduce the legislation in the Senate.

Upcoming congressional hearings include Hearings to Examine Vaccine Diplomacy In Latin America and The Caribbean, Focusing On The Importance of U.S. Engagement (Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Nov. 18).

Movement Building

NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF) released a statement from President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill lauding the signing of the infrastuture bill into law by President Biden. LDF also announced that it is joining civil rights and faith groups to launch a legal challenge against racial gerrymandering in the redrawing of maps for state legislative and congressional districts in Alabama. Additionally, LDF announced that it has filed an amicus brief in a longstanding employment discrimination case, EEOC v. International Association of Bridge Structural and Ornamental Ironworkers Local 580, et al., filed in 1971.

National Urban League announced in a statement that it is among a coalition of civil rights groups that have released the first-ever Senate scorecard, “which grades every U.S. Senator on performance defending voting rights in the 117th U.S. Congress.”

The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law released a statement citing reform of the U.S. Supreme Court as a necessary measure to protect civil rights and democracy, making four specific recommendations for reforming the high court.

Rev. Jesse Jackson asserted his intention to continue to attend the trial of the white men facing murder charges for killing Ahmaud Arbery, in support of the murder victim’s family. The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition statement is in response to a call made by the attorney of one of the defendants to have Black clergy banned from the courtroom.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration announced the Good Jobs Challenge, which will allocate $500 million to collaborative skills training systems and programs, while encouraging efforts to reach historically underserved populations and areas, communities of color, women, and other groups facing labor market barriers.


Senator Sherrod Brown

The Joint Center is hosting its last Voice at the Table of 2021 Dec. 8. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) will be in conversation with Vice President, Policy, Jessica Fulton about his economic policy priorities, including affordable housing and tax policy, as well as his perspective on diversity among both congressional staff and appointees in the Administration. RSVP here.

The National Black Caucus of State Legislators presents its 45th Annual Legislative Conference, “Prioritizing Solutions to Challenges within Our Communities,” at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Atlanta, Nov. 30-Dec. 3.