WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats approved sweeping health care, climate and tax legislation in a party vote Sunday, delivering a major victory for President Joe Biden and his platform ahead of the midterm elections. .
The Senate passed the Cut Inflation Act, which includes record spending on clean energy initiatives, measures to reduce prescription drug prices and a tax overhaul to ensure big business pays taxes on income. Every Democrat voted for and every Republican against the measure.
It is heading for a vote in the Democratic-controlled House, where it is expected to pass as early as Friday.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., called the bill a “defining legislative feat of the 21st century” and “the boldest climate package in U.S. history” in the Senate before the final vote.
“For those of you who have lost faith that Congress can do great things, this bill is for you,” he said.
Vice President Kamala Harris voted in favor of the measure after an exhausting nightly session of debate, amendment and negotiation. The 3 p.m. “vote-a-rama” that began at 11:30 p.m. ended with Harris casting the deciding vote on the final pass.
The bill – originally brokered by Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va. – tackles long-standing Liberal priorities. The White House’s loftier ambitions to expand the social safety net in last year’s Build Back Better bill have been abandoned during a year of rocky negotiations among Democrats.
“This is the action the American people have been waiting for,” Biden said in the days leading up to the vote.
The bill would allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices — long opposed by the pharmaceutical industry — and extend Affordable Care Act grants by three years through 2025.
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To combat climate change, the bill includes $10 billion in tax credits to build electric vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines; $7,500 in tax credit rebates for consumers who purchase electric vehicles; and $9 billion for energy-efficient home renovations for low-income Americans.
There are up to $20 billion in loans to support electric vehicle factories, $20 billion to help farmers and ranchers deal with climate change, and $30 billion to cities and states to push through clean electricity utilities.
To pay for these and other measures, the bill would establish a minimum corporate tax of 15% and strengthen enforcement by the Internal Revenue Service.
After:Republicans push back on Manchin’s claim inflation bill doesn’t include tax hike
The bill would bring in an estimated $739 billion in tax revenue, more than offset the $433 billion in proposed spending. The legislation would reduce the federal deficit by $102 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The bill didn’t pass unscathed: Republicans removed a $35 monthly cap on insulin co-payments via an amendment, arguing the provision violated the rules. Seven Republicans sided with Democrats to try to keep the measure in place: GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Dan Sullivan of Alaska.
Democrats cut the cost of insulin through Medicare in the bill because Republicans’ amendment only targeted the insulin co-pay cap for private insurers.
Negotiations over the legislation have appeared dead on several occasions, only picking up in recent weeks and culminating in a surprise deal between Schumer and Manchin last week.
Democrats garnered enough support to pass the bill in the equally divided Senate when Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, said Thursday she would vote in favor after securing commitments on drought relief and amendments tax.
Amid 40-year-old high inflation, Democrats designed and titled the legislation as a way to cut consumer costs, but economists disagree on its effectiveness in doing so.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Wharton budget model predicted that the impact on inflation would be “statistically indistinguishable from zero” in the long run and slightly increase inflation before 2024.
An analysis by Moody’s Analytics found that the legislation was “pushing the economy and inflation in the right direction, while significantly tackling climate change and reducing government budget deficits”.
Contact Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.