Senate Democrats pass sweeping climate and health care bill

WASHINGTON — After a year of painstaking negotiations that for a moment seemed to go nowhere, Senate Democrats on Sunday approved sweeping legislation aimed at reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas output and making health care more affordable.

The vote was split 50-50 along party lines, with Vice President Kamala Harris playing the tiebreaker role after a marathon session of amendment votes. The House is expected to review the legislation and pass it on Friday.

Democrats celebrated after the bill passed by cheering and sticking together on the Senate floor. The assistants who were intimately involved in the negotiations wiped away tears of jubilation.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) said the bill will remain “one of the defining legislative feats of the 21st century.”

The Cut Inflation Act – although significantly scaled back from previous versions – is now poised to hand President Joe Biden another major legislative victory ahead of November’s midterm elections. His first name reflects his party’s volatile politics at the moment, with rising food, gas and energy costs top of mind for voters.

The bill would make big changes to energy, drug and tax policies. Before some last-minute changes caused by procedural issues, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill would reduce the budget deficit by just over $90 billion over 10 years.

Democrats are also calling for an additional $200 billion reduction in the revenue deficit the government would collect through tougher IRS enforcement.

The bill sets aside hundreds of billions of dollars to fight climate change, including by encouraging clean energy technologies. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said $260 billion would go to clean energy tax credits that he called “transformational.”

The bill would also enact a change Democrats have been seeking for more than a decade — allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies on prescription drug prices. This kind of haggling was banned in the Part D prescription drug bill of 2003 passed by Republicans.

A separate provision of the legislation would extend a temporary Affordable Care Act subsidy package that would reduce the price of insurance that people buy directly through HealthCare.gov, or through state-run insurance exchanges like “Pennie” and Connect for Health Care in Pennsylvania. Colorado. For some insurance buyers, subsidies save hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year.

The grants, which Democrats signed into law in 2021 as part of their pandemic relief package, were due to expire this year. The Inflation Reduction Act keeps them in place until 2025.

On taxes, the bill would implement a minimum corporate tax of 15% and strengthen IRS enforcement by $80 billion over the next 10 years.

Democrats had originally hoped to pass a much broader social policy bill, but couldn’t get Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) on board with things like paid vacation, affordable housing and child care. children. After months of stalled talks that left progressives steaming, Manchin shocked Washington by agreeing to a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) on a narrower package and putting in angered Republicans who thought he had driven the final nail in the coffin.

Democrats eventually won over Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), their latest holdout, by agreeing to make several changes to the bill, including eliminating a provision that would have tightened a tax loophole associated with hedge fund managers and private equity managers. This measure has been replaced by a new excise tax on share buybacks which is expected to begin in 2023.

Until Saturday night, Republicans did their best to extract a political cost from Democrats by passing the bill – having them vote on a series of tricky amendments meant less to pass than to give Democratic candidates in the Senate nightmares about the advertisements they might spawn.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) proposed an amendment that would have barred the IRS from accessing its extra money in the bill until 90% of agency employees are back on the job in person. He failed on a 50-50 vote. An amendment proposed by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) that would have prohibited new IRS funds from being used to audit taxpayers with taxable income below $400,000 a year ― the level below which Biden has said people wouldn’t see any tax hikes ― was also beaten in a 50-50 draw.

Other proposed Republican amendments sought to put in place proposals Democrats said they support but were not included in the bill, such as an overhaul of environmental permitting requirements and opening up areas of the plateau. continental exterior to energy exploration. They were defeated by a 49-50 procedural vote and a 50-50 countout, respectively.

“My r[epublican] friends have made it clear that they absolutely do not want to support this bill under any conditions. None of their amendments would change that. For this reason, I will vote to protect the integrity of the IRA, regardless of the substance of their bogus amendments,” Manchin said. tweeted Saturday, pledging to stick with Democrats to push back against GOP efforts.

However, not all of the rejected amendments came from Republicans. Senate Democrats stuck to their plan to avoid upsetting the delicate balance of the bill with on-the-fly changes — meaning amendments proposed by Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt .), which would have expanded health care benefits, were defeated by 1-99, 3-97 and 1-98 votes.

Democrats—though supportive of the effort—rejected these amendments because passing them would have increased the overall cost of the package and cost them Manchin’s support.

“Senator Sanders is right,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said after Sanders proposed an amendment to extend a monthly child allowance. “But I ask my colleagues to vote no, because it would lower the bill.”

Democratic attempts to introduce a $35 cap on insulin prices also failed, as the Senate congressman concluded the provision violated the complex rules that govern legislation in the process of reconciliation. Democrats still sought to include the measure in the bill, but Republicans voted to delete it.

The final bill was a patchwork that some senators only reluctantly supported.

Sanders followed up on messages from Democrats on Saturday by echoing GOP complaints that the bill would not curb inflation. He called it “the so-called ‘Inflation Reduction Act'”, much to the delight of Republican National Committee.

The Republicans were backed Thursday by the head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Phillip Swagel. At the request of Senator Lindsey Graham (SC), the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, Swagel gave his opinion of the Bill’s impact on fighting inflation and said it would be “negligible” in 2022. In 2023, this would translate to inflation just 0.1 percentage point lower or higher than under current law, he said.

But Democratic leaders said the analysis did not account for health and energy rebates in the bill. They have also vowed to fight for the rest of their schedule in the coming months.

“There are people who want to do more,” Wyden told reporters on Saturday. ” I share this point of view. It was not offered tonight. Failed to get 50 votes.

And Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Sunday touted green energy investments in the bill.

“It will mean a lot to tens of millions of people across the country,” Warren said. “This is America’s first real push to respond to the climate crisis.”




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