- Senate Democrats hope to pass a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan and budget resolution before the summer recess.
- However, some pending bills and proposals may resurface after the break or later this session, tackling issues such as retirement security, Medicare, student loans and more.
- Here’s the likelihood of these plans making it through Congress, according to policy experts.
As the Senate races for its summer recess, Democrats hope to pass two priorities: a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan and a budget resolution allowing them to skirt Republican opposition to their $3.5 trillion spending plan.
However, other pending bills and proposals may resurface this fall or later this session. Some of these plans — which tackle retirement security, Medicare, student loans and more — may significantly affect Americans’ wallets.
CNBC spoke with policy experts about these measures and ranked each one with a score of zero to 10, with 10 being the most likely to happen. Here are some plans to watch after the break.
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Congress passed sweeping changes to the U.S. retirement system with the Secure Act of 2019, and now there are a pair of bipartisan bills in the House and the Senate that aim to build on that law.
Nicknamed “Secure 2.0,” the House bill received unanimous approval from the Ways and Means Committee in May and currently has 59 co-sponsors.
The Senate bill, named the Retirement Security and Savings Act, hasn’t made as much progress. However, experts are optimistic about the future of these similar proposals.
The bills would also lift caps on retirement income streams for so-called qualified longevity annuity contracts and offer 401(k) access to part-time workers, among other measures.
“I think retirement security is on their radar,” said Paul Richman, chief government and political affairs officer at the Insured Retirement Institute. “And it’s on their to-do list for this session of Congress.”
With competing priorities this fall, the legislation may not move before year-end, but it’s likely to happen before this session wraps up, he added.
Student loan forgiveness
Student loan borrowers are still waiting for signs that their debt may be forgiven. But cancellation wasn’t part of President Joe Biden‘s infrastructure plan or budget request to Congress.
The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education are currently reviewing Biden’s legal authority to forgive student debt through executive action. If Biden doesn’t get the green light, Congress will need to approve the measure.
Meanwhile, Biden extended the pause on student loan payments through January 2022 on Friday, so borrowers may not see movement until next year.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., recently renewed their calls for Biden to forgive up to $50,000 in federal student loans per borrower. However, experts say $10,000 may be more realistic.
“I think it’s more likely now than it’s ever been in the past since there seems to be a lot of support for it,” said higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz. “President Biden has reaffirmed his commitment to his promise that he would provide $10,000 of forgiveness.”
“So I think it’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s just a matter of when and how much.” It’s also unclear whether the cancellation may be targeted and in what manner.
Enhanced child tax credit
Last month, millions of families started to receive monthly payments for the expanded child tax credit. Passed by Congress in March as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, the measure has temporarily boosted the credit to $3,000 from $2,000.
The payments provide $300 per month per child under age 6 and $250 per month for children ages 6 to 17. Eligible families will receive payments through the end of the year, for a total of $3,600 per child under 6 and $3,000 for children between 6 and 17.
Experts say the expanded tax credit — along with other measures from the American Rescue Plan Act — may help reduce child poverty by one-half. As a result, some officials are calling to make the increased credits permanent.
“I think that there is a much better chance of something permanent being enacted over the next few years,” said Shai Akabas, director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “But I don’t think it’s likely to look exactly like the provision that is in place today.”
It’s possible there may be bipartisan negotiations in the future with some type of expansion of the credit, he said.
There are currently about 62.7 million individuals enrolled in Medicare, with the majority over age 65, and most use it as their primary form of health insurance.
Medicare Part A offers hospital coverage and Part B is for outpatient care. But there is generally no insurance for dental, hearing and vision, leading to seniors skipping care.
Nearly half of Medicare enrollees don’t have dental insurance, and 47% haven’t seen a dentist over the past year, as of 2018, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Although Medicare Part C, known as Medicare Advantage Plans, offers some coverage for dental, hearing and vision, only 40% of beneficiaries have these plans.
While the Senate Democrats offered few details, a House bill from Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, proposes coverage for hearing aids and exams, dentures, emergency and preventative dental care, refractive eye exams and eyeglasses.
With limited calendar space this fall, it’s difficult to see how the Medicare proposal would get acted upon promptly, said Timothy Lynch, senior director at the law firm of Morgan Lewis. However, it may have a better chance with a longer timeframe.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the government has delivered three rounds of stimulus payments to eligible Americans: $1,200 through the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act in March 2020, another $600 in December as part of a relief measure and $1,400 from the American Rescue Plan signed in March 2021.
However, with the unemployment rate at 5.4%, many families are still struggling. While some lawmakers have pushed for recurring stimulus payments, experts say policymakers have shifted focus to other priorities.
“I really don’t think that there’s going to be a stomach for any sort of large-scale stimulus,” said Lynch. “I think the Republicans, and frankly, quite a few Democrats, view the infrastructure package as the next stimulus.”
(CNBC’s Sarah O’Brien, Lorie Konish and Annie Nova contributed to this report.)
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