WASHINGTON — The Senate began voting late Saturday on a series of amendments to a sweeping climate, health care and tax spending bill as Democrats rushed to approve the measure and Republicans tried to slow down its adoption.
It’s a rare weekend session for the Senate as Democrats work to pass their ambitious bill known as the Cut Inflation Act of 2022 before leaving Capitol Hill for their traditional August holidays.
Democrats are advancing the bill, called the Cut Inflation Act, through the budget reconciliation process, which means they have to clear a few procedural hurdles to send the bill to the House and possibly in the office of President Joe Biden.
Details of the Inflation Reduction Act:Sen. Joe Manchin and Senate Leader Schumer reach agreement on energy, drug prices and taxes
What is the budget reconciliation process?
Senate Democrats are using the budget reconciliation process to push the bill forward, allowing them to avoid the 60-vote threshold to overcome a Republican filibuster. The process allows the bill to pass with 50 votes, meaning all they need is a strict party-line vote with their majority at 50-50 (Vice President Kamala Harris would vote in case of a tie). No Republican should support the final version.
The process has one major caveat – the provisions of the bill must be tied to the budget to some degree. Any bill that is on the path to reconciliation must first go through the Senate parliamentarian, who combs through the bill for any violations of what has been dubbed the Byrd Rule. It was named after Democratic Virginia Senator Harry F. Byrd Sr., a tax hawk.
On Saturday morning, Democrats received good news when they learned that Congresswoman Elizabeth MacDonough believed that reconciliation could apply to large parts of the bill concerning climate initiatives and allowing Medicare to negotiate a reduction in costs. medicines for the elderly.
“…We are on the verge of finally taking on Big Pharma and lowering Rx drug prices for millions of Americans,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y. said in a statement.
Later Saturday night, Democrats received more welcome news as Schumer’s office announced that the Congressional Budget Office had confirmed that the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 met reconciliation instructions, allowing the bill to move forward in the Senate.
What led to this?
Last week, Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., unexpectedly announced agreement on a massive spending bill that would tackle climate change, lower prescription drug prices and cut the federal deficit. .
With Republicans expected to do well in November’s midterm elections, the bill could present a potentially huge victory for Biden and congressional Democrats after losing faith in Manchin for tearing down the president’s far more ambitious Build Back Better plan. Last year.
What happens first and when?
On Saturday night, the Senate agreed by a 50-50 party vote, with Harris breaking the tie, which could have amounted to up to 20 hours of debate, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. But the leaders of both parties chose to go straight to votes on the amendments after only a few hours of debate.
The bill “will reduce costs for American families. It will meet some of the basic needs of families for generations in terms of day-to-day living costs that are too expensive and that are going to be reduced through this work,” said Harris told reporters. after casting the deciding vote.
After the debate was over, a “vote-a-rama” on the amendments to the bill began.
What is a vote-a-rama?
In a rama vote, senators can propose an unlimited number of amendments to a bill, but the process is expedited.
There is only one minute allocated to the debate, equally divided between the two parties. Then, senators have 10 minutes to vote. This process is repeated for each amendment.
The First Amendment was proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., shortly after 11:30 p.m. His proposal would have accelerated Medicare’s ability to negotiate lower pharmaceutical costs and expanded the list of drugs on which they could impose price caps. He failed 99-1.
The Senate last held a vote a year ago when it passed a fiscal year 2022 budget resolution. In that case, senators offered 43 amendments for a vote, leading to a session which lasted about 14 hours.
Saturday night’s vote-a-rama is expected to continue at least until Sunday morning. The timing of the bill’s final passage remains unknown.
What’s the point of it?
Most of the amendments are expected to come from Republicans, furious at the deal that was brokered without their input.
The amendments proposed by the Republicans are expected to fail. But the vote-a-rama will allow Republicans to vote Democrats on tough issues that could be used for campaign ads this fall.
The deal has also drawn ire from some on the left, who have criticized the bill’s investment in new fossil fuel development – likely due to the importance of natural gas and coal to the US economy. ‘Manchin Home State.
Progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the Senate on Wednesday, urged lawmakers “to do everything possible to combat the greed of the fossil fuel industry” and promised to introduce an amendment reversing fossil fuel investments in the bill.
Sanders’ amendment is expected to fail because the bill depends on Manchin’s support.
Once all proposed amendments have been voted on and senators have agreed on the final language of the bill, it will proceed to a final vote. Assuming Schumer keeps all of his fellow Democrats in line, the bill is expected to pass in a 50-50 party vote, with Harris voting for the tiebreaker.
“Look, (Republicans are going to) do a lot of amendments, we don’t know what else they’ll do but like I said, I think we’ll have 50 votes to pass this legislation at the end of the day,” Schumer said. at a press conference on Friday.