Democrats push Biden’s climate, health care priorities toward Senate deal – NBC Chicago

Democrats drove their election-year economic package toward Senate approval early Sunday, debating a measure less ambitious than President Joe Biden’s original national goals but touching on the party’s deep-rooted dreams of slowing warming climate change, to moderate pharmaceutical costs and to tax huge corporations.

The legislation passed its first test in the equally divided House when Democrats overtook the unanimous Republican opposition and voted to start the debate 51-50, thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ decisive vote. The House was planning to return on Friday to vote on what Democrats hope will be final congressional approval.

β€œIt will reduce inflation. This will reduce prescription drug costs. It will fight against climate change. It will close tax loopholes and reduce and reduce the deficit,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said of the package. “It will help every citizen of this country and make America a much better place.”

President Joe Biden on Thursday urged lawmakers to pass the Cut Inflation Act of 2022, a bill that would provide inflation relief and invest in energy security and climate change programs.

Republicans said the measure would undermine an economy that policymakers are struggling to prevent from plunging into recession. They said the bill’s business taxes would hurt job creation and drive up prices, making it harder for people to cope with the country’s worst inflation since the 1980s.

“The Democrats have already robbed American families once through inflation, and now their solution is to rob American families a second time,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. while having an insignificant impact on inflation and climate change.

Nonpartisan analysts said the Democrats’ Cut Inflation Act would have a minor impact on soaring consumer prices. The bill is just over a tenth the size of Biden’s original 10-year, $3.5 trillion rainbow of progressive dreams, and the new package ditched universal early childhood education, paid family leave and increased childcare support.

Even so, the measure gives Democrats a campaign season showcase for action on coveted targets. It includes the largest-ever federal effort on climate change β€” nearly $400 billion β€” and would give Medicare the power to negotiate pharmaceutical prices and expand expiring subsidies that help 13 million Americans recover. provide health insurance.

Biden’s original measure collapsed after conservative Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., opposed it, saying it was too costly and would fuel inflation.

In a test imposed on all budget bills like this, the Senate descended into a “vote-a-rama” of hours of rapid amendments. Each tested the Democrats’ ability to hold together a compromise brokered by Schumer, the Progressives, Manchin and the inscrutable centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.

Progressive Sen. Bernie Sander, I-Vt., proposed amendments to further expand the health benefits of the legislation, and they were defeated. But most of the proposed changes were shaped by Republicans to untangle the bill or force Democrats to vote on dangerous political ground.

A GOP proposal would have forced the Biden administration to maintain Trump-era restrictions that cite the pandemic to reduce the flow of migrants across the southwest border.

Earlier this year, Democrats facing tough re-elections backed such an extension, forcing the party to drop its push for COVID-19 spending when Republicans united the two issues. This time, with their far more important economic legislation at stake and the election approaching, the Democrats have rallied against border controls.

Other GOP changes would have required more gas and oil leases on federal lands and blocked the renewal of an oil royalty that helps fund the cleanup of toxic waste. All were defeated in party line votes. Republicans have accused Democrats of being soft on border security and opening the door to higher energy and gas costs.

Before debate began on Saturday, the bill’s prescription drug price restrictions were watered down by the nonpartisan Senate congressman. Elizabeth MacDonough, who arbitrates questions on chamber proceedings, said a provision should fall that would impose costly penalties on drugmakers whose price increases for private insurers exceed inflation.

It was the bill’s main protection for the 180 million people who have private health coverage through work or buy it themselves. Under special procedures that will allow Democrats to pass their bill by a simple majority without the usual 60-vote margin, its provisions must be more about politics than dollar-and-cent budget changes.

But the bulk of their pharma price talk remained. This involved letting Medicare negotiate what it pays for drugs for its 64 million elderly beneficiaries, penalizing manufacturers for outpacing Medicare drug inflation, and limiting beneficiary drug costs to $2,000 per year.

The bill also caps patient costs for insulin, the diabetes drug, at $35 per month.

The measure’s final costs have been recalculated to reflect the late changes, but overall would bring in more than $700 billion over a decade. Funding would come from a minimum tax of 15% on a handful of companies whose annual profits exceed $1 billion; a 1% tax on companies that buy back their own stock, bolstered IRS tax collections and government savings through lower drug costs.

Sinema forced Democrats to scrap a plan to prevent wealthy hedge fund managers from paying less than personal income tax rates on their earnings. She also joined other Western senators in winning $4 billion to fight the region’s horrific drought.

It was on the energy and environment side that the Democrats’ compromise was most evident between the progressives and Manchin, a champion of fossil fuels and his state’s coal industry.

Clean energy efforts would be bolstered by tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles and the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines. There would be household energy rebates, funds for building factories developing clean energy technologies and money to promote climate-friendly farming practices and reduce pollution in minority communities.

Manchin won billions to help power plants reduce carbon emissions, as well as language demanding more government auctions for oil drilling on federal lands and waters. Party leaders have also promised to push separate legislation this fall to expedite permits for energy projects, which Manchin wants to include a near-complete gas pipeline in his state.

NBC Chicago

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