Watching Congress can be frustrating. It’s tempting to ignore the machinations of politics—very tempting. However, the federal government has the power and resources to do what states cannot. Do you remember the stimulus checks or the PPP loans? Those were federal programs. More recent examples are the child tax credit checks and the increases to SNAP benefits, both federal programs that have significantly helped people.
The reconciliation bill has potential to transform the lives of individuals. Programs include extending the child tax credit, subsidies for child care and universal pre-K, elder care, two free years of community college, subsidies for solar and home insulation, expansion of Medicare, lower prescription drug prices, paid family and medical leave, and incentives for purchasing electric vehicles. We will have to wait and see how much of these proposals remain after negotiations.
The reconciliation bill can pass by a simple majority, but it will need all Democratic votes. Currently Democrats are negotiating with Democrats to work out a compromise.
For an entertaining explanation of the process, see Politico's “I’m Just a Bill, Updated:"
Watching is not our only option. Here are some things we can do in the short term:
Reach out to our U.S. Representatives and Senators and tell them that our communities need the Build Back Better (i.e., reconciliation) bill
Participate in the redistricting process to ensure fair representation
Things that we can do long term:
Help others to register to vote
Encourage people in your sphere of influence to vote