Build Back Better
Congressional Democrats and the White House spent the last several months of 2021 working to enact President Biden’s signature legislative priority, the Build Back Better Act. This proposed legislative piece is key to advancing the Administration’s economic recovery agenda. The House passed its version before Thanksgiving in mid-November with hopes of Senate action before the end of the year to avoid further legislative issues.
Legislating within the margins of a 50-50 Senate is very difficult, and in order to use the budget reconciliation process and bypass the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Senate, Democrats need all 50 of their members to vote for the legislation (with VP Harris breaking the tie). However, as Christmas approached, it was abundantly clear that Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) did not support the version of the Build Back Better Act being considered by the Chamber. Continued government reports on the growing impact of inflation led him to oppose another massive spending bill that could add to those inflationary pressures.
The White House and Democrat leaders spent the holiday break regrouping to find another path for their economic recovery agenda. It has been very slow-moving, and consideration could now continue to drag on for months. Initial goals for Democrats were larger, with spending over $3 trillion. Given the concerns of moderate Democrats in the House and Senate, that initial target was cut in half to $1.75 trillion. But even that level proved to be too high. The next steps for the Democrats will include breaking the previous package up into those pieces that can be agreed to within the Democrat majorities in the House and Senate. There is no guarantee this will be successful as we are officially in an election year with the 2022 midterm elections a short ten months away.
Supply Chain Pressures
With regard to legislative issues, HFA members remain active and engaged with policymakers on the impacts of inflation on furniture retailers and our customers. Buried in the overall inflation numbers are much greater numbers for the furniture segment, nearing 15% inflation compared to the previous year. We have been consistently carrying this message to stakeholders as it impacts legislative issues.
The surging number of COVID-19 cases across the country is also certain to contribute to our members’ supply chain issues every day. The Administration has made statements about the health of the supply chain and some parts of the problem easing. We have brought the perspective back to the unprecedented increases in shipping costs and pressures to furniture retailers and their persistent nature.
There are ongoing discussions with industry, consumer/parent groups, and congressional staff on furniture tip-over. Furniture retailers view safety as a top priority to ensure our customers are buying safe products. There is a path to creating a mandatory tip-over standard that preserves input from furniture manufacturers and retailers while also providing strong protection to tip-over risk. We will continue to update our members on progress related to this issue.