A few other potential threats loomed as the sun rose on Sunday, particularly over the legislation’s insulin price cap. But Republicans have otherwise made little headway in a legislative endurance series of politically sensitive votes on immigration, taxes and other issues.
“I want my colleagues to understand what this is really about. These motions … are motions to kill this bill, period,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
During the vote-a-rama, Democrats offered alternative amendments to buy coverage for their own vulnerable members on several GOP proposals. This included a side-by-side debate over Title 42, a polarizing Trump-era policy that placed limits on migration during the pandemic.
Democrats also rejected their own caucus’ amendments in the vote overnight. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tried to insert provisions that would bolster prescription drug reforms, expand Medicare and create a Civilian Climate Corps, but he failed to draw support of the vast majority of his colleagues. Only Georgia Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have joined Sanders in his efforts to expand Medicare.
The vote-a-rama is the latest installment in a long drama that began more than a year ago with a Democratic budget designed to set the stage for a $3.5 trillion social spending program that could avoid a buccaneer. That vision boiled down over the course of several months to the bill that the Senate still has to pass later on Sunday.
Democrats warned of major changes during the Senate night session, arguing it was time to pass the bill after about a year of high-profile horse-trading that has highlighted divisions between progressives and moderate.
The final bill was carefully negotiated to win the support of the 50-member Senate Democratic caucus. Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) surprised his colleagues late last month when he struck a deal with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) on tax and climate provisions as part of of the agreement.
Prior to this Schumer-Manchin pact, Democrats expected to pass a much narrower package of health care only to cut drug costs and expand Affordable Care Act subsidies.
The deal Schumer and Manchin reached kicked off a multi-day race to sell it to the rest of the caucus and vet the legislation against the tough Senate budget rules Democrats must obey to pass their bill without GOP obstruction. . Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) then secured a handful of changes in exchange for her support to get the debate started.
Schumer made a handful of major changes to appease Sinema, eliminating language that would have tightened a loophole allowing some investors to pay less tax that would have generated $14 billion in revenue. Instead, the pair agreed to add a 1% excise tax on share buybacks, which is expected to raise $73 billion, while adjusting the minimum corporate tax to appease anxious manufacturers .
However, the bill could still change before crossing the Senate finish line.
Democrats still face a Republican challenge to their proposed $35 monthly cap on what people pay out of pocket for insulin, a plan championed by Warnock. Republicans have argued that the provision is inconsistent with Senate budget rules.
The Senate parliamentarian, or upper house rules arbiter, could decide in real time whether the insulin provisions should stay or go.
If the congressman opposes it, Democrats should try to muster 60 votes to overturn the decision and keep it in the bill. That would require finding the support of 10 Republicans, which they shouldn’t get.
“I need them not to block it,” Warnock said of Republicans. “If they don’t block it, it will pass.”
The outcome of the insulin supply was the biggest question mark as the hours-long voting marathon dragged on into Sunday.
On Saturday, the party line proposal survived a Senate vetting of Medicare parties to its prescription drug reform plan, while Democrats lost ground on a separate pillar that penalizes drug companies for having increased prices for people with private health insurance. The tax and environmental provisions of the legislation also progressed smoothly.
Democrats ultimately stuck with the core elements of their proposal: lowering the price of some prescription drugs, devoting more than $300 billion to climate change and clean energy, and imposing a minimum 15% tax on big business. , as well as a new 1% excise tax on share buybacks. The bill also increases IRS enforcement and extends Obamacare grants through the 2024 election.