House Speaker Nancy Pelosi voiced confidence that the next congressional budget reconciliation bill would include unprecedented commitments to child care, home care, paid family leave and early childhood education.
“This is historic. We’re crossing a threshold,” Pelosi, the nation’s third most powerful political figure and the first woman to lead the House of Representatives, said in an interview with The 19th at its 2021 virtual summit.
The $3.5 trillion package — which is currently being developed — has emerged as a critical vehicle to enact many of President Joe Biden’s signature campaign pledges, which could particularly affect working women and have failed to garner Republican support. It can be passed through a process requiring only 51 votes in the Senate, where Democrats currently hold 50 seats and Vice President Kamala Harris serves as the tie-breaking vote.
Lawmakers will debate over the next few weeks how to allocate the $3.5 trillion, and what priorities to address. It’s not yet clear how much of that money will go toward the specific priorities Pelosi emphasized in her conversation with The 19th’s Washington correspondent Amanda Becker. Once lawmakers have written out the details of the budget package, both the Senate and House will vote on it.
The priorities Pelosi emphasized could have particularly potent implications for women. The child care industry was decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Home care and child care workers alike are predominantly women, and typically women of color. In families that cannot access those social supports — and that do not have access to family leave, or early childhood education — research shows that women are more likely to carry caregiving burdens.
“Our slogan is ‘children learning, parents earning.’ And that means moms. Dads, too, but many more moms,” Pelosi said.
The budget package’s path to passage isn’t guaranteed. Two centrist Democratic senators — Joe Manchin of Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — have expressed skepticism about the $3.5 trillion figure.
Pelosi, who is often credited with shepherding the Affordable Care Act into passage, has said the House will not vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill until the Senate passes the budget bill. Both Manchin and Sinema supported that bill. Speaking to The 19th, Pelosi said such a commitment was critical toward crafting an economic recovery that benefits all people.
“It’s about knowing that we have to build back better with women, and with people who previously did not have the opportunity to participate,” she said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify the number of votes Democrats have in the U.S. Senate.