House Democrats Pass Reconciliation Bill, CBO Scores Key Workplace Provisions

November 19, 2021

By a vote of 220 to 213, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376), which includes civil monetary penalties for directors for company labor law violations, a four-week federal paid leave program, and prescription drug pricing reform provisions.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the bill will cost $1.7 trillion over a decade and will add $367 billion to the deficit.  CBO released its budget analysis of the various sections of the Build Back Better Act during the week, which was requested by centrist Democrats before agreeing to a House floor vote.

Most notably, the CBO estimates:

  • Personal liability and civil monetary penalties for directors or officers for NLRA unfair labor practice violations where the director or officer “directed or committed the violation” will generate $88 million over 10 years.

  • Civil monetary penalties for employer Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations will increase government revenues by $2.6 billion over 10 years.

  • Mental health civil monetary penalties for any employer health plan that violates its legal obligations will generate $35 million over 10 years.

  • A universal comprehensive four-week paid leave program would cost the government $205 billion over 10 years, including an $8 billion reimbursement option for employer-sponsored paid leave benefits.  In addition, the CBO estimates that employers participating in the reimbursement option for employer-sponsored paid leave benefits would pay $151 million over 10 years in application fees.

Outlook:  The bill will now go to the U.S. Senate where it will be substantially changed.  The Senate parliamentarian could rule that several provisions are non-budgetary items, and the bill will be subject to hundreds of amendments by Senate Republicans during floor consideration.  In addition, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), whose vote is necessary for the bill's passage, has already said he does not agree with the paid leave provisions in the House package.  Congress is scheduled to be on recess next week, which means the Senate will consider the bill in December.  However, the exact timing remains unknown as the Senate will have to consider other priorities, including funding the government beyond December 3, raising the debt limit, and passing the National Defense Authorization Act.